ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s not an easy story for Narseary and Vernal Harris to tell, even after all these years. But they decided to tell that story to News 8 this past fall.

It’s the story of two of their sons, Paul and Solomon, who suffered from and eventually died of sickle cell disease.

At the end of the report, it was noted that sickle cell patients rely heavily on blood transfusions which means one way to help them is to donate blood.

When Narseary’s colleague at the School Without Walls in the Rochester City School District Susan Hollister-Cronberger heard that, she started to plan a blood drive.

That drive took place earlier in February and involved a fundraiser that sold student artwork.

“I love having the students involved, they’re very excited to see the community come in and we already have so many people to come and donate blood so we’re very excited,” Hollister-Cronberger said as the event got underway.

Narseary expressed tremendous gratitude for the support, saying her sons’ struggles underline the need for the gift of blood.

“They had to be transfused at a minimum of twice a month and then there were times when they had to have total blood exchanges. So the need for blood is great for any reason, but for the sickle cell patient it’s life-saving, it could be a matter of life and death,” she said.

The fact that sickle cell disease disproportionately affects the African-American community and research continues into how treatment has been impacted by racial disparities inspired the group to hold this blood drive at the start of Black History Month.

The timing was noted by Paul and Solomon’s pediatrician Dr. Stephen Webb, who also showed up at the blood drive.

“It’s a celebration of a lot of things and this being Black History Month, I think it’s also important to realize that transfusion treatment is largely owing to the efforts of Charles Drew, who was an African-American surgeon who founded transfusion therapy,” Dr. Webb said.

The first person to give blood was Dee Johnson. She traveled from Buffalo where she works to increase access to health care.

Her appearance is a reflection of her friendship with Narseary and the tragic bond they share.

“Her baby boys died from sick cell and my baby brother died from sickle cell so we’re big proponents of giving blood, plasma, anything we can to help our community fight this challenge that we’re having,” Johnson, executive director of the National Witness Project, said.

If you’d like to donate blood, click here.