Kevin Joseph Smith Burke’s life ended tragically at the age of 23 in the summer of 2017, but the Wilmette native’s memory lives on through a local blood drive held in his honor.
Scheduled for February 23, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., at the St. Joseph Catholic Church Community Room—1747 Lake Avenue, in Wilmette—organizers of the event hope to eclipse last year’s collection of 140 units of blood. St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, also in Wilmette, serves as a co-sponsor of the drive.
Kevin, born in 1993, was the second of Kevin and Kathryn Burke’s five children. He was in St. Joseph Preschool’s inaugural class, before attending St. Francis Xavier School from kin- dergarten through eighth grade. He graduated from New Trier High School, where he was on the football, swimming, and rowing teams.
A strong athlete who competed in area regattas, half marathons, stair climbing races, and triathlons, Kevin enrolled at the University of Illinois in Champaign and, after traveling in South Africa during a gap year, attended Loyola University.
He died suddenly in July, 2017.
Spearheading the blood drive is longtime family friend Jeff Later, a parishioner of neighbor- ing and soon-to-be-merging St. Francis Church, and a loyal blood donor for the past 25 years. It
was Later’s request to Kevin’s parents a little more than a year ago that they would consider allowing the drive to be staged in memory of their son.
“Kevin was a fun, kind, social, and energetic person—always willing to help others,” Later recalls.
“He was,” the friend adds with a laugh, “petrified of insects and blood, which is ironic consid- ering his size and adventurous spirit. With that said, he would be overjoyed to know this blood drive is taking place in his honor and will help so many people who are in such vital need.”
To schedule an appointment for the Kevin Joseph Smith Burke Blood Drive, visit vitalant.org, log in, scroll down to search by Group Code 750B or call 877-25-VITAL. In preparation for their donation, donors are asked to eat well, stay hydrated and arrive with proper identification. The donation appointment takes about an hour (with the donation itself only around ten minutes) and is safe and comfortable.