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Laredo boy looks to save lives, spread gospel

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LAREDO, Texas — Sixteen-year-old Mitchell McCrea is honing his missionary skills and making the front pages of various local newspapers.McCrea has received extensive media attention for helping the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center as part of his Duty to God award — and for being a model Latter-day Saint in an area with few members.McCrea himself was not quite old enough to donate blood, but that did not stop the determined young Mormon, a member of the Laredo 1st Branch, Laredo Texas District, from bringing the community together for a massive blood drive on March 20.__IMAGE1__"We're very proud of him," said Kim McCrea, Mitchell's mother. "He's always been dedicated. He earned his Eagle Scout when he was only 13. This was just the next step."Dennis McCrea, Mitchell's father, said the family has worked hard to improve the image of the church in Laredo. The media frenzy over one boy's good turn has softened hearts."The blood drive helped us reach out to our neighbors since there has been a lot of bias against Mormons here," he said.Many families were wary of donating blood at first. Dennis McCrea says there were a lot of misconceptions about the process."People were under the impression that it was really dangerous," Dennis said.Mitchell McCrea, who got the idea from his dad, an avid advocate of blood donation, said the most common misconceptions about blood donation he encountered while drumming up support were people thinking their blood could get infected or people thinking it would be a waste of time."Both aren't true," McCrea said, "and it's not a waste, ever, since you never know if you're going to need (blood). Situations come up randomly. ... We should help each other and not be selfish."McCrea said the blood drive was announced at his high school and a lot of kids did not know they could donate as early as age 16."I plan on donating blood regularly," he said. "It's essential for life. It's something people need every day, every hour, every minute. Blood is what's going to save your life."

E-mail: eschmuhl@desnews.com