ANTIOCH -- In the calm before Thursday's Team Matthew Blood Drive at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, a volunteer surveyed a table of donated baked goods. Among them were beautifully decorated cookies, some reading "Team Matthew" and depicting a thumbs-up, others bearing the message "Be an organ donor."
"This is going to be a day of crying," she said.
It was more than that. Thursday's event, the brainchild of Kristi Ouimet, whose 2-year-old son Matthew is recovering from double transplant surgery, made for a day of giving, caring, support, celebration, laughter and, yes, a tear or two.
A spokesman for the Red Cross, which provided the blood-drawing technicians, said the organization expected at least 150 donors for the six-hour event. A typical average blood drive, he said, attracts 30 to 50 donors. Eventgoers also were invited to place themselves on bone marrow and organ donation registries.
Kelly Ouimet, Matthew's father and one of the event's first blood donors, was stunned at the scope of an event that was put together by an estimated 200 volunteers in less than three weeks.
"I am overwhelmed," he said. "I cannot believe the outpouring of support we're getting today."
Matthew, in intensive care at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco, was not able to be at the event. Nor was Kristi Ouimet, who has been at her son's bedside during his challenging recovery from the 13-hour transplant surgery June 4-5.
But hundreds of people did turn out (nearly 300 RSVP'd on the event's Facebook page). When they weren't giving blood, they enjoyed a bake sale, a DJ, nearly nonstop raffles thanks to generous donations, a kids bouncy house, T-shirt and boutique vendors, and an appearance by Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrell Pryor, who flew up from Los Angeles for the event and signed autographs and posed for pictures for more than hour.
Pryor's appearance was arranged by Antioch businessman Jeff Butler, who knows Pryor and Sherry Ouimet-Torrano, Kelly Ouimet's sister.
"We threw it out that maybe (Pryor) could come support Matthew," Ouimet-Torrano said. "Jeff got him on the phone, and he dropped everything and came. He knew how important it was to the community. He knew how important this was for organ donation and blood donation to draw the crowd out."
Pryor, who signed shirts, footballs, towels and gloves donated by the Raiders, said he was happy to help out.
"I just keep hearing about Matthew," he said, "and I know he's been fighting a good bit. That's just a huge story and it's something for people to look at, to keep fighting and never give up."
All fundraising proceeds were to be donated to Children's Organ Transplant Association in Matthew Ouimet's honor.
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.