Bone marrow and financial donors sought
By Deb Silverthorn
A group of 14 youths from seven schools has been working virtually to help save lives by recruiting blood stem cell donors and raising money for DKMS, an organization that works to eliminate blood cancer.
The Dallas Youth Advisory Board is working toward a goal of securing 126 potential donors and raising $5,600 to cover the cost of their registration kits.
At press time, the virtual drive had raised $785, with four potential donors registered.
“We need people to swab and we need people to donate funds, both kinds of giving are critical to saving lives,” said Hallie Sternblitz, a member of the Advisory Board and a sophomore at Greenhill School.
In 2020’s first 10 weeks, DKMS’ U.S. Central Donor Recruitment Coordinator Amy Roseman and her teams registered 2,500 new potential donors at 18 drives. In the last six weeks, there have been less than a dozen swabs received. A new blood cancer patient is diagnosed in America every three minutes, and only 30% find a compatible donor in their family, according to statistics from the organization.
“This isn’t a work-from-home position. Our success depends on almost daily interaction. Even with virtual connections, our pipeline is loosening,” said Roseman. “Being out in the community to educate people of our mission is critical. Like so many though, I’m doing all that I can to still make it work and our Youth Advisory Board students are dedicated to that as well.”
Dallas’ DKMS Youth Advisory Board is set up to meet seven times throughout the school year. The group is composed of 14 students from Episcopal School of Dallas, Greenhill School, The Hockaday School, Highland Park, Liberty, Parish Episcopal and Shelton high schools.
The students learn the mission of the organization, meet with bone marrow donors, patients and medical professionals. The students, committed to two years of service, receive community service hours, and a fuller heart.
“It costs $45 for every registration kit (not passed on to the potential donor), so to mail kits and find matches, we need to raise a great deal of funds,” said Hallie. “These are desperate times, so we must get more people to the registry and hopefully find matches for the patients in need.”
Hallie was first introduced to DKMS in 2009 when her family participated in a donor drive to support family friend Karen Stock. Hallie’s father was swabbed, and four years later, was matched to a patient in England. Hallie made the nonprofit her bat mitzvah project and the family has since volunteered together; the cause is close to them all.
“I first swabbed, hoping I might be a match for Karen but ultimately I was able to help someone else,” said David Sternblitz, Hallie’s father. He and his wife, Susan, were flown to Washington, D.C. for the donation. He says he suffered no pain, and he’d do it again, and that his daughter is so committed brings him much joy.
“Hallie, who is a leader in so many ways,” said David, “has jumped at the chance to educate the community, reaching the teens, and to help the registry grow.”
There is no cost to the potential donor. Those interested visit the website and request a swab kit be sent to them. Instructions are included for the process, which takes only five minutes, and then the package is mailed back to DKMS.
“This is time cancer patients cannot afford to lose,” said Hallie. “From home, from anywhere, you can make a difference. You might be able to save a life.”
How you can help: Visit tinyurl.com/DKMS-VIRTUAL-DRIVE-2020 for more information about becoming a potential bone marrow donor or to make a financial commitment. High school students interested in applying to DKMS’ Youth Advisory Board 2020-2021 should email Amy@dkms.org.