SPOKANE, Wash --- A local blood and platelet donor met one of the people she helped with her donations.

Ryan Hawkins hopes one day he can turn his love of illustrations into a career. The recent high school graduate is leaving for the University of Washington soon.

“He’s leaving me, abandoning me, for a life,” joked his mom, Jen Hawkins.

Leaving for college and living a life like this almost never came for Ryan.

“Ryan graduated from 8th grade on a Friday in mid-June, by the next Monday he was diagnosed with leukemia,’ said Jen.

Aggressive chemo began and so did a long journey with cancer. Ryan had an aggressive form of leukemia. The tight-knit family would be tested with months in the hospital, only to be told months later the cancer was back.

“It’s kind of a sense of feeling like I have a purpose,” said donor, Emily Richart.

Strangers were lining up for the fight as well. People like Richart, and unbeknownst to her, she would play a vital role in saving Ryan.

Ryan and his family got to meet Richart at the Inland Northwest Blood Center for the first time.

Richart has been a long-time blood and platelet donor. She was part of a small army that helped during Ryan’s treatment. He received 101 units of blood and platelets during his illness.

Before it began, his platelets should have been at 150-thousand. At the time of the diagnoses, they were at 11. Platelets were the first thing given to Ryan.

“I love the sense of, yes! I am helping,” said Richart.

Richart’s donation helped save Ryan’s life, and she said it also helped save her’s.

“About the time he was going through his first bout. I think I was fighting major depression. I was thinking, do I even matter? And years later, vindication, yes,” said Richart.

Ryan is just one of the people likely helped by Richart. She does not see donating blood as a chore, but rather she sees it as a gift. She calls INBC her happy place and gives platelets every other week.

Meeting Ryan only added to her connection, because now when she donates she has a face and a family she can visualize.

Ryan has been cancer free for three years now, so he has the freedom to bring his dreams and his drawings to life.