As mentioned, I spent four years working at the Gift of Life Marrow Registry.
To say the experience changed me would be an understatement. I learned so much from a visionary leader—not only about Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplants BUT about ways to grow your footprint and own the mission.
Part 1- Ohhh!
Turning a moment into a mission.
On my first day at work, I met Jay Feinberg. Jay is the founder of Gift of Life, and as the hair club for men guy famously said, "I'm not only the Hair Club president, but I'm also a client."
Jay is a transplant survivor.
In fact, Gift of Life started with his search for a life-saving donor for himself. His moment(s) of fear for his own life turned his parents and Jay into advocates for joining the registry.
Their fearless fight has now turned into over 27,000 donor matches and almost 5,000 transplants facilitated.
2. Be open to new Ideas.
Gift of Life started by asking friends and friends of friends to join the registry and run drives in their community. Today, it has grown to include a network of student ambassadors who run drives on campuses nationwide, a vibrant community of volunteers who raise awareness, funds and run drives, and more.
The Gift of Life Center for Cell and Gene Therapy was opened in 2020. Amazing… however, my favorite (as I was thrilled to be able to get numerous donors/corporations to underwrite this project) is the Stem Cell Collection Center (2019) which offers stem cell donors the opportunity to avoid a hospital and instead donate at this state of the art center that feels like a hotel!
3. Walk the walk.
There was nothing I would not do to support the mission of Gift of Life. This included running swabbing drives at corporations, events, and even at a pre-season baseball game. The Ball Park of The Palm Beaches is the spring training home of the Washington Nationals and the then-World Champion Houston Astros. I ran a drive on March 9, 2018, to encourage gamegoers to join the registry. I was accompanied by an 18-year-old volunteer-my son, Cole. (more to come on this!)
4. Be the change you want to see in the world.
I believed in what we were doing with all my heart. As a Fundraiser, you should too.
You should understand the mission you represent and invite everyone you meet to learn at least something about your mission, passion, and success.
No one is surprised to hear this, but when I was at the ballpark with my son, he swabbed and joined the registry.
Part 2- This is really happening.
Fast forward through… college at the University of Florida, graduate school, a worldwide pandemic, two summers of internships, a job offer, a trip to Alaska with the family, a trip to Japan with his buddies, and a pending move to Scottsdale for a job with the folks he interned with and then it happened.
(drum roll please)
Cole got the call that he was a match for a 58-year-old man battling Leukemia. He was very excited!
Thus, starting a process that caps off today. Since your match remains a secret for one year in the United States, I will not share the actual date in case there is a super sleuth out there.
Let's call it a Monday during the dog days of summer!
We start early in the morning and drive down to the collection center at Gift of Life's headquarters. I can do this drive in my sleep after four years of working there. I drive carefully, as a man's life depends on safely getting Cole to the donation center!
It was strange going back to the place I worked.
My son is living the story I told for years.
He IS the mission moment I always train you to include in your story. (#ProudMom)
He is greeted warmly and hooked up to the Apheresis machine (I call it the magic machine). He will sit, nap, play video games, and text for the next few hours.
His stem cells will then be sent via courier to someplace unknown to save the life of someone we don't know.
He saved a life before he bought his first car or paid his first rent bill. This Gift to a stranger will be part of his personal story forever.
Want to learn more about the process?
The Stem Cell donation process or the fundraising process!
Reach out today or drop me a note.
Special Thanks to the Gift of Life Team ( Jay, Hildy, Amy, Karen, Becca), especially the collection center team, for making us feel so special during this day of miracles.