Celebrating 20 years of Saving Lives
It wasn't the glare of the lights or the flashes of cameras in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt New York that caused 600 sets of eyes to tear last Thursday evening. Instead, it was the overflowing emotions of those who witnessed three incredible meetings between heroic bone marrow donors and the recipients whose lives they saved. The victory stories of these three individuals were told in their own words before the enthralled crowd. Stories about how each had overcome; the toughest challenge of all; surviving life-threatening diseases that required a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. Meanwhile, the trio of heroes stood by and heard how their selfless act of donating their bone marrow to complete strangers changed the course of their lives. With heartfelt tears and hugs, the donors and recipients met face-to-face for the first time.
Donor, Arielle, who had watched her own father battle lymphoma, said that getting called upon to be a donor hit close to home. "I immediately jumped at the opportunity to save the life of this stranger in need. I am truly overcome with joy to be celebrating life with both my dad and my recipient, I look forward to building a relationship with someone who was once a stranger and I can now call family," she said. Her Recipient, Neil, a retired dentist from Pennsylvania, stood by to hear Arielle’s kind words. Having had a difficult recovery, he too looks forward to creating a relationship with his newly found family.
Charles R. Bronfman, Chairman of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, former Co-Chairman of The Seagram Company Ltd., and the former Chairman and principal owner of the Montreal Expos, delivered a moving tribute to Gift of Life’s founders and recipients of this year’s Partners for Life Award, Jay, Jack and Arlene Feinberg.
Jay Feinberg, a 15 year transplant survivor himself, made an emotional appeal on behalf of the families of two families for whom Gift of Life is searching for matches. The Fineman family of Fair Lawn, New Jersey is hoping for a miracle match for their two-year old son, Ezra, whose rare immune deficiency could be cured by a bone marrow transplant. Likewise, the Poupko-Galena family of New York City is actively searching for a match for their daughter Ayelet; a one –year old with a bone marrow failure disorder.
In addition to the emotional reunions, Gift of Life introduced cutting edge technology for attendees to show their financial support of the organization’s mission, by asking contributors to text donations in real-time during the program. A $100,000 challenge was made to match gifts made to the organization that evening only, and was met due to the generosity of those in attendance, resulting in the raising of $200,000 during the evening’s event. This will take 3,700 potential donors off the waitlist, allowing for the testing of kits for which there was previously no underwriting to cover the lab processing costs. Currently, there are 12,858 kits on the waitlist.
Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation has facilitated more than 2,300 transplants for patients worldwide who had no other alternative than to search the unrelated donor pool for someone of similar genetic descent.
Interviews with the donor-recipient pairs or, Gift of Life’s leadership may be contacted by calling 1.800-9MARROW. Photos and video may be viewed on the Gift of Life website at: www.giftoflife.com.
View the entire Gift of Life Gala Photo Gallery Here