History & Overview
Leukemia is a random killer. It can strike any one of us at any time. But for many, there is hope of a cure through a bone marrow, blood stem cell or umbilical cord blood transplant. In fact, one in 200 Americans will receive such a transplant in their lifetime.
Headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, Gift of Life is one of the nation's public bone marrow, blood stem cell and umbilical cord blood registries. Through its life-saving work, Gift of Life is a world leader facilitating transplants for children and adults suffering from many life-threatening diseases, among them leukemia and lymphoma.
When Jay Feinberg was diagnosed with leukemia and told he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive, he had no idea that his personal journey would result in the establishment of a grass roots organization that would later save the lives of hundreds of patients in need. But that's precisely what happened.
Jay's story is one of transforming adversity into success. When he got sick, Jay was told that a transplant could save his life, but he would die needlessly because he would never find a matching donor. He quickly learned the reason why. A patient's best chance of finding a genetic match lies with those of similar ethnic background. Unfortunately, the worldwide registry was not representative of all ethnic groups, and Jay was Jewish. There was an urgent need to add diversity to the registry, and time was of the essence.
Jay's family and friends didn't want to see him die. They wanted him to have an equal opportunity to find a match. So they launched an ambitious grassroots donor recruitment campaign, resulting in the enrollment of tens of thousands of new donors in the worldwide registry. But after four years, and finding matches for so many other patients in need, there was still none for Jay.
That's when his miracle happened. A young man decided to run one last drive because his best friend had found a match through a drive held for Jay. He knew the odds were against him, but he was determined to return the gift. And that is exactly what he did.
Jay's four year search for a donor came to a close in May 1995. The very last donor - tested at that very last drive - turned out to be his miracle match! Jay received his transplant soon after at the world renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle thanks to his miracle match, Becky, and a determined young man who wouldn't take no for an answer.
Gift of Life Today
It is said that saving one life is like saving the entire world. When Becky donated her bone marrow to Jay, she saved more than one life, because Gift of Life's mission did not end with Jay's successful transplant. The organization is as vibrant and dynamic today as the day it was founded. Click here for up to the minute statistics on Gift of Life's registry size, match rate and number of transplants facilitated.
Innovations in Growing the Registry
Gift of Life is always at the forefront developing new ways to recruit donors as part of its portfolio of registry services. The use of cheek swabs at drives in the early 2000s paved the way for much of the world. Speed Swabbing® now enables donors to get swabbed quickly and easily, while ensuring that donors are deeply committed.