Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Bone marrow registry seeks to enroll 70,000 new donors

A mother will do just about anything to protect her child. Nothing could illustrate that more than the story of Arlene Feinberg, a mother who led the charge to find a bone marrow donor for her son Jay, who had been diagnosed with leukemia. She was a pioneer recruiting volunteer donors at a time when the worldwide bone marrow registry was in its infancy, finding matches for countless patients in similar circumstances as her son. Seventy percent of patients do not have a family member who is a match; they must search the registry to find that one stranger who can save their lives.

Ultimately Arlene Feinberg found that "miracle match" for Jay, and he had a successful bone marrow transplant. Her trailblazing efforts led to the establishment of a grass roots organization called Gift of Life, one of 73 registries in 52 countries. Under her son's leadership as CEO, the registry, with a special focus on registering people from the Jewish community, has grown to become the 14th largest worldwide. In 2013 alone, Gift of Life organized nearly 900 donor drives and tested over 25,000 donors.

Gift of Life is launching a campaign to add 70,000 new people to its bone marrow registry.  As many as one-third of people with blood cancers, such as leukemia, or other blood diseases don't ever find an optimal genetic match. Identifying potential donors is especially difficult for minorities, such as Jews, who are underrepresented in the bone marrow registries. The best chance for a match for people with blood cancers comes from people with similar ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Arlene Feinberg passed away earlier this year after a valiant battle with cancer herself, but her memory will live on through the good work of Gift of Life, and in the hearts of all those who the organization has helped to save. As a tribute to her memory, Gift of Life will host a worldwide digital event on Sunday, June 22 at 7p.m. EST. This "Virtual" Gala will feature a first-time look at the inside operations of the donor registry, a donor-recipient meeting, and the launch of an unprecedented $4 million campaign to test 70,000 new bone marrow donors called "Arlene's Vision".

For more information on the online event, please visit gala.giftoflife.org or call 1-800-9marrow. Sponsorships are also welcome. Follow on Twitter using #GOLGala14.


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