PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It was an emotional moment Thursday night as the family of a West Warwick teenager who was killed by an alleged drunk driver last year met one of his many blood donors.
Matthew Dennison died back in March 2022 after the car he was riding in was hit head-on by a suspected drunk driver. He was critically wounded and spent nearly a month in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries.
The 17-year-old was the captain of the West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich high school hockey team alongside his best friend Kevin McDonald, who was also injured in the crash.
“We went through the most horrific thing a family could go through,” his father Mark Dennison said.
Throughout his stay in the hospital, Mark said his son received more than 50 units of blood. It gave their family precious time to be together before saying goodbye.
“It gave us an extra 27 days with our son,” Mark explained.
The Rhode Island Blood Center hosted its High School Heroes awards ceremony Thursday night, during which the Dennisons met Susie Fontaine.
Fontaine was one of the several Rhode Islanders who donated blood and prolonged Matt’s life.
“I’m humbled. I am thankful. I’m so grateful to have met one of the donors that gave to our son,” his mother Brenda said. “There are just so many good people. I don’t have the right words to say how thankful and grateful we are.”
Fontaine, who has been donating blood for more than 12 years, felt the same way.
“It was such an honor to meet his family,” Fontaine said.
The ceremony took place in front of high school-aged blood donors, who the Dennisons hope will continue to save lives.
“When you’re feeling like what you’re doing isn’t really getting there, just know that it is,” Mark told the crowd. “You’re making a difference. It’s just nice to know that in a lot of ways.”
Rhode Island Blood Center spokesperson Caitlin Grimaldi-Flick said Matt’s legacy has united hundreds one pint at a time. She hopes the meeting between the Dennisons and Fontaine will encourage high schools across the state to host more donation drives.
“It gives context for everybody,” Grimaldi-Flick explained. “‘Oh, my blood does help somebody.’ Matthew was that perfect example.”
Grimaldi-Flick said high schools interested in organizing a blood donation drive should email BloodDrive@TheBloodCenter.org or call the Donor Resources Department at (504) 592-1596.