EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– As flu season activity starts to increase, a local non-profit called ‘Alana’s Foundation’ is working to educate the community and raise awareness about the dangers of influenza.

The non-profit was started in 2009, in memory of a little girl named Alana Yaksich who passed away from the flu in 2003.

“We go out and do flu education awareness and we bring the vaccine to the people making it convenient and affordable. That was two of the barriers that we found were preventing people from getting vaccinated,” Alana’s Aunt, Joanna Yaksich said.

This afternoon, the foundation partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine to host a free drive-through flu clinic.

Alana was only 5-years-old when she passed away. She developed a sudden, 106-degree fever and was rushed to the emergency room. Her aunt said at the time, the flu vaccine was not recommended for kids Alana’s age. Now, it’s recommended for anyone over 6 months of age.

Alana Yaksich passed away from influenza on Feb. 1, 2003, at 5-years-old.

“She was not vaccinated, but she passed away in a matter of 18 hours. She was not sick, had no other pre-existing conditions, and it just, you know, brought awareness for everybody the importance of getting your vaccination so you can prevent tragedy from happening again,” Yaksich said.

Event organizers said there is a big push for people to get a flu vaccine this year in particular.

“At Blue Cross we know all the dangers of COVID-19, obviously, and our concern is making sure that people remember to get the flu vaccine because those two things together can be really… extra dangerous and we want everybody to be safe,” B.J. Puchala, Senior Community Liaison for BCBSM said.

Yaksich added, making sure more people are vaccinated for the flu could help ease the burden on medical workers.

“They’re calling it the ‘twindemic’. They’re worried about COVID and flu circulating at the same time, so we don’t have a vaccination for COVID, but we do have vaccination for flu, so we need to make sure more people are vaccinated against influenza so that we can at least take that off the table and lessen the strain on the health care system,” Yaksich said.

A full list of flu clinics offered by Alana’s Foundation for the 2020-21 season can be found here.