The Blood/Stem Cell drive sponsored by Tommy Ellison and Sue Stein at the Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna last week in cooperation with the local Blood Bank of Alaska, overwhelmed organizers and supporters.
Tommy and Sue are cancer patients who had learned first hand of the immediate need for potential donors for stem cell transplants on the national registry. "While Tommy was waiting for his second transplant and I was waiting for my first, we thought we'd see what we could do to get some new potential donors added to the registry from the local community, we'll be excited if we can get 30 or 40 new donors and collect that many units of blood," said Stein in a radio interview prior to the drive. Nationwide there are only some 300,000 donors registered for potential matches.
An unprecedented turn-out of donors showed up at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna last week in response to a call from local cancer patients Sue Stein and Tommy Ellison.
The drive was scheduled to begin at 2:00pm Tuesday afternoon and before it even started there were more than 30 people lined up to become donors. By 6:30pm people were still waiting for the opportunity to give and the drive had to be continued all day Wednesday. "During both days we had more than 140 people show up and more than 70 pints of good blood came out of the two days and about 110 new stem cell donors were added to the registry," said Amy Jackman, Public Relations director for the Kenai Peninsula Blood Bank of Alaska. The drive is continuing in Sue and Tommy's name throughout the month of August and according to Jackman, there was a steady line of donors at the regular office of the Blood Bank at the Blazy Mall all day Thursday.
The testing of a donor's blood in order to be added to the national registry costs $75. When BP Alaska heard of the drive they put out a challenge to match all contributions up to $2,500 so that donors would not have to pay for the testing. Unocal added $1,000, and the Soldotna Rotary Club responded with $500. Donations are still being accepted at the Blood Bank for the stem cell testing. "We didn't want folks to have to give us their blood and their money, we wanted this to be a community wide event where it was the community supporting its own members and that way those who were unable to donate could support the effort with a monetary contribution," said Jackman. The Blood Bank is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00am to 5:00pm and can be reached at 260-5672.
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