Zaya has a few health conditions, but he’s a happy kid whose future is looking bright.

FishHawk residents Derek and Dawn Zitko have a 3-year-old son named Parker, known to most as ‘Zaya,’ who has been an inspiration to many in the community. Zaya was born at 30 weeks with cerebral palsy, brain bleeds and several gastrointestinal issues. Due to his health conditions, he required a number of blood transfusions during the first weeks of his life. In order to help people like Zaya, John-Michael Elms, a neighbor of the Zitko family, became an advocate for blood donations and an organizer of many blood drives, and he is setting one up at Bevis Elementary in honor of Zaya.

“We’ve just been very blessed, and we just had the opportunity to fight for kids. I was in the military 21 years, and we bounced around the world and just always tried to serve and help people,” said Derek. “So, when we finally got settled in here, we found it in our hearts to start fostering, and it turned out that the first baby we fostered had siblings who were also related to those with good friends of ours. From there, we just kept expanding the family.”

In addition to the blood drive, Zaya has also been getting physical therapy for his cerebral palsy and help with his other health conditions.

“We’ll obviously keep working with him and keep praying he walks one day, but other than that, he’s pretty healthy,” said Derek. He also said that, though Zaya should not need more blood transfusions, so many others are in need.

Those wanting to honor Zaya and give blood can find the blood drive at Bevis Elementary School, located at 5720 Osprey Ridge Dr. in Lithia, on Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. They will greatly appreciate help with getting blood donations.

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Taylor Wells is a relatively recently hired news reporter for the Osprey Observer, having been with the paper only since October 8, 2018. Aside from writing articles, he helps edit and upload them to the Osprey Observer site, and is always available to help other staff members in his spare time. He graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and lives in Valrico.