News & Events

Giving a Life-Changing Gift

Date: 9/2/2011

Over a decade ago, Marshal Davis, now 31, was a fencer and an aspiring lawyer attending the University of Florida. As a student, he attended a bone marrow recruitment drive for Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and swabbed his cheek to become a volunteer donor. He gave it little thought and went on with his life, marrying his wife, Helen, setting up a legal practice in Pennsylvania, and becoming the fencing coach for Swarthmore College.

Two years ago, in 2009, he received a life-altering call from Gift of Life. Marshal was informed that he was a match for a 5 year old boy who had been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Though a little wary at first, he was excited to have the opportunity to save a life and he committed himself to a complete stranger.

For a year following the donation, Marshal had anonymous contact with the boy he donated to and his family, exchanging anonymous cards and letters. In 2010, the two learned one another’s identities and the families spent the next year exchanging emails, finally having the opportunity to meet in person in April 2011 in an encounter that changed their lives forever.  

Marshal flew out to Jacob’s hometown, and together, they visited the hospital where Jacob has been treated. Both have gained a life-long friend and developed an incredible bond that can never be erased. Gift of Life often refers to bone marrow and blood stem cell donors as heroes; however, Marshal says that it is Jacob who deserves this title.  He said, “One of the things I tell Jacob is that he is now a hero saving lives because he shared his story.”

When Jacob was first diagnosed, he did not show any signs of being sick.  He was like any typical first-grader; he loved playing sports and always had a mischievous look in his eyes. However, Jacob’s family learned that he could develop leukemia from the Myelodysplastic Syndrome and therefore needed a bone marrow transplant. 

Marshal believes that life’s most precious gifts often arrive in the most interesting ways.  Since his donation, he has been committed to raising awareness about the need to increase the number of donors in the worldwide registry.  Marshal has organized his first bone marrow recruitment drive with his family in Margate, New Jersey this Labor Day Weekend.  He hopes that by sharing his story, others will be encouraged to join the registry in the hopes that they may one day save someone’s life. 

For more information on holding your own donor drive, please contact Shayne Pilpel at or 561-982-2900.

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