BY: LEANNE BENN
Often times, people hear the word stem cell donation or bone marrow and unless you are knowledgeable in the field of medicine there is a sense of instilled fear. There is always a fear attached to something that you don’t know about. Stem cell research has always been at the forefront for medical professionals in Canada, as it has been proven through research that stem cells are powerful enough to treat disease and injury. In essence stem cells have the ability to promote repair in the body, as they can develop into new cells needed when healing, either blood cells or even skin cells.
On March 18, The Gardine Graham Foundation will be in collaboration with Donor Drive 4 Dorothy, in order to spread awareness about the importance of stem cells for blood disorder patients or for those suffering from leukemia among other cancers.
Both foundations are concerned about spreading awareness about stem cell research and how blood donations can change the lives of those in need. Upon speaking with Marcia A. Tulloch, the co- founder of The Gerdine Graham Foundation she expressed the need for young people, especially between the ages of seventeen to thirty-five to come out and get tested to see if they are a donor match. This is the second Swab-a-Thon hosted by this foundation and this year, it is being promoted as a ‘Swab and Dance’ to Unite for Sonia Beckford.
Sonia Beckford is a vibrant and loving woman who has been diagnosed with a very rare blood disorder that has now progressed to an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia. This is a joint community effort to encourage people to see if they are a donor match for Sonia. Testing is as simple as a swab of the inside of your cheek. There are too many families that are watching their loved ones wait for blood donations because donating blood might not be at the top of your to do list but in the simplest of ways, it can change someone’s life.
According to the Stem Cell Foundation of Canada, bone marrow stem cell transplants have been able to treat and even cure some forms of cancer for decades. There is much more that needs to be done in medical research as well as community involvement in increasing the rate of blood donations, especially in the black and Caribbean communities.
There are still myths associated with stem cell donation but in reality if you are a match and you agree to donate, it is important to be committed to the process, most often it is a day procedure and a one-time donation. Referring with the patient’s doctor reveals more information as to what type of donation would be best for the patient. This is also the goal for the Unite for Sonia event where the hosts hope to have a physician present to answer questions that guests may have.
Even if you do not want to donate, this event is informative and accommodating for parents and the youth in the Etobicoke community and other areas across Toronto.
The event will be held at The Jamaican Canadian Association’s Main Hall, 995 Arrow Rd. between 2-5pm where guests can do a free swab test to see if they are eligible to donate for Sonia. From 6-7pm there will be a panel style discussion with Dorothy Brown-Vernon and Tom Wong and interaction with the audience to debunk the myth behind stem cell donation as well as input from two guests who have received donations before.
From 8 pm to midnight, there will be a 70’s themed fashion show and special performances with food and refreshments available for purchase. There is a $25 donation charge for this portion of the event.
The Unite for Sonia event is also encouraging youth to come out to volunteer for this event, as they will receive credit towards their high school. For more information on this event and on stem cell research visit The Gerdine Graham Foundation online and Canadian Blood Services respectively.