Andrew Stone’s Bar Mitzvah Project

When I was introduced to the idea of a mitzvah project, I was stumped. There were so many organizations around and ways that I could help. Then my father said an important name, “Auntie Barbara,” and immediately my decision was made. This was so because my Aunt was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. After her diagnosis, my father was introduced to Jay Feinberg and the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.

My Auntie Barbara could not find a donor match in any of the registries, and my father and cousins were not matches either -- the future looked bleak. Our family friends wanted to help with donor drives set up in Barbara’s name. Although she lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, the most successful drive for Barbara was held in Newton, Massachusetts, the suburb of Boston where she grew up. Huge numbers of people from that community chipped in, especially the drive organizer Jimmy Marks. Jimmy is a friend of my father’s from high school, and still one of my father’s best friends. When Jimmy heard of my Aunt’s need for a bone marrow transplant, he decided to begin a huge drive in Massachusetts with the assistance of Gift of Life. Even with so many people contributing to the drive, the odds were very slim that a match would be found.

Who could have dreamed that her college roommate’s decision to test her eligibility, even against all odds, would help Barbara survive? But it did with a near perfect match. We were told that it is the first time in the history of the donor matching program, that a recipient knew the “anonymous” donor. The bone marrow transplant took place in Seattle at the Fred Hutchinson Center and Barbara lived for a full year before passing away because of complications from her particularly aggressive form of leukemia. Although a year doesn’t sound like a lot, it is. An extra year with her family, particularly with her two young daughters (my cousins Allie and Stephie), was priceless.

The donor’s name was Shari and I was fortunate enough to have her attend my Bar Mitzvah in May. This allowed me to show all of my friends and family the person who had unselfishly donated her bone marrow to my Aunt. I included Shari in my Bar Mitzvah speech and told everyone that I was contributing a portion of all my Bar Mitzvah gifts to Gift of Life. After my Bar Mitzvah, I was invited to the Gift of Life Gala where I personally gave Jay Feinberg my donation. I was amazed at what I saw at the Gala. There was a huge turnout of donors and recipients, but the thing that most touched me at the Gala was the meeting of donors with their recipients for the first time. It was a great experience and validated even more in my mind that I was doing the right thing by donating to this organization. When I finally met Jay, I was pleased to hand him my donation, but even more than that I was thankful. This man helped my Auntie Barbara, and for that I could never repay him.

Thank you Jay,

Andrew

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