Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

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Festival survivors find healing at memorial blood drive

Talking about her stageside experience at last year’s country music festival still brings Las Vegan Lisa Donahue to tears. Donahue thinks about her 13-year-old daughter, who was at her side listening to Jason Aldean before the two jumped a nearby barrier and hid for cover when a gunman opened fire on the Las Vegas Strip. 

One year later, neither is completely healed, nor do they ever expect to be.

Donahue said she has continued to grow stronger by giving back and supporting fellow festivalgoers, including by participating in a blood drive Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. She hung a ribbon with a small note on a makeshift wall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, contributing to hundreds of similar notes left with words of support for victims.

“I’m blessed to be here and blessed to be a part of this community,” she said.

Donahue was one of nearly 300 donors at the blood drive, which was hosted by Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services) on the one-year anniversary of the massacre.

Mike Zenzola, who escaped gunfire at the festival with his pregnant wife, also donated blood at the event. He wore a black T-shirt with “Vegas Strong” written in large white letters. Zenzola, 31, proudly said his 5-month-old son Porter was also a survivor of last year’s massacre.

“Whatever we can do to help, we want to be here for it,” Zenzola said.

Blood donors said they appreciated how Las Vegas has become a friendlier community in the past year. The town, where many residents come from other states and arguably lacked pride in the city, has completely transformed, they said.

Zenzola, originally from Menifee, Calif., has lived in Las Vegas for 12 years. He came to play for UNLV’s hockey team and stayed thanks to a marketing job. He called an acquired sense of compassion the most significant change he noticed in the community over the last year.

“Up until last year I never felt a sense of community or camaraderie,” Zenzola said. “This made me want to stay because now I feel like I have family in Las Vegas, not just California.”

Vitalant spokeswoman Jeannine McCoy said Vegas Golden Knights players Deryk Engelland, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula and Oscar Lindberg, among others, as well as representatives from the NFL’s Raiders Foundation donated blood.