Catherine, a Sedalia Park Elementary School student, was diagnosed with brain cancer at 27 months. Thankful for the blood and platelet transfusions she received during treatment, Catherine's family arranged for a blood donation truck at her party.
"It's our way of giving back to the medical community because of the great care that Catherine got when we were being treated for chemotherapy," said Robby Rowan, Catherine's father.
Robby and Victoria Rowan threw a Disney's Little Mermaid-themed party for their eldest daughter at the community swimming pool in their Weatherstone subdivision, off Old Sewell Road in east Cobb. Family, neighbors, teachers, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church members and even their garbage collectors signed up to attend and donate blood.
The American Red Cross sent a mobile unit to facilitate the blood drive, which surpassed an initial goal of 25 pints of blood. More than 35 people donated.
"I just felt like it would be going to a good cause," fellow church member Don Siegmann of Doraville said. "Even though it wouldn't go to her, it would go to somebody in need."
Catherine received chemotherapy treatment for 18 months at Children's Healthcare Atlanta-Scottish Rite, which required her to undergo a number of blood and platelet transfusions. The transfusions often left her extremely lethargic and sometimes struggling to hold her head upright.
"I really thought she was going to die," Victoria Rowan.
"Her original diagnosis had a 48 percent survival rate ... We were pregnant with my other daughter (Sabrina), and I thought God was taking away Catherine and giving us a new child."
Catherine's cancer has been in remission since March 2009.
Though she suffers from other medical challenges, which have resulted in a kidney removal, a feeding tube and a corrective eye surgery scheduled in October, Catherine's parents are optimistic about her future.
The Rowans said they're also grateful for the support they've received from neighbors, who made dinner for them when they had to attend treatment sessions for 18 months.
"I'm just so grateful that the American Red Cross was willing to come out and take part in this," Robby said. "When you have a child and they need blood, I think it cuts more to one's heart than an adult."
At the end of Friday's party, attendees released balloons carrying notes to loved ones who have passed.
The Red Cross will be hosting a blood drive from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. todayat its donor center in the East Lake Shopping Center at 2145 Roswell Road in Marietta. To schedule an appointment, call (800) 733-2767.