The little boy, beaming on the back of the fire engine in his father’s oversized uniform, stole the heart of an entire community.
Over 1,900 people registered to become bone marrow donors at a drive on Saturday, February 18 at Our Lady of Hope Catholic School in Middle Village – an effort stemming from six-year-old Colin Flood’s recent diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).
Volunteers came out in droves, dressed in T-shirts reading “Blasting Out Leukemia Trooper Style,” with a picture of a giant robot yielding a ray gun. On the back, in bold letters, it read, “TEAM COLIN.”
Joanne Clarke, a long-time friend of the Flood family, worked the registration table, getting potential donors signed up and instructing them on the process of bone marrow donation. Armed with charts and diagrams, Clarke told a young couple about Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation – a method where cells are spun out of a donor’s blood and collected before the blood is returned back to the donor.
“Hopefully we can find Colin a donor,” said Clarke. “Hopefully something good comes out of [the drive].”
On the opposite side of the room, potential donors scraped cheek swabs along the inside of their mouths and sealed them in envelopes.
Over the next three to four weeks, DKMS — the non-profit organization that registers potential donors — will test for Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA), contained in human tissue, to see if there is a match. Donors who register with DKMS have the potential to provide life-saving materials to anyone, worldwide.
James Kirkland, a representative from DKMS, bounced around the room, greeting attendees and meeting with other volunteers. He called the experience “mind-boggling.”
“Usually good turnout for a drive is around 150, 200 people,” he said. “This is incredible.”
For those who were not able to attend the bone marrow drive but are still interested in donation, visit www.getswabbed.org. Registration is free and materials are sent from DKMS directly to your home.