In Memory of Michelle Sion
In July 2017, JCC aquatics instructor Michelle Sion (above, left) was not feeling well. Instead of celebrating a bar mitzvah in Israel with her family, she went to the Hackensack University Medical Center where doctors told her she had leukemia and needed a stem cell transplant to survive.
Since Michelle’s brother was not a match, her doctors began a search of the stem cell registry. Her daughter Talia organized a bone marrow donor drive on her college campus and swabbed more than 300 students. The morning after Talia’s drive, Michelle learned she found a match in Gift of Life’s registry, and on December 18, 2017, she received a stem cell donation.
Her stem cell donor, Noah Starr, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and ZBT brother, joined Gift of Life while on his Birthright trip to Israel in 2017. Alongside working at a commercial finance company in Dallas, Noah runs an Instagram channel about important moments in history, @truthserumhistory, and writes Meaningful Digressions on his blog.
The two were introduced at the Celebrating Life NYC event in February 2019 in an emotional and heartwarming ceremony. After the two hugged to cheers, Noah’s mom presented Michelle with a bouquet, and each of them expressed their gratitude.
“I remember going to a drive at the local temple and swabbing,” said Michelle. “I never imagined I would be the one in need of a bone marrow transplant. I am so grateful to this stranger, Noah, who is no longer a stranger – he has truly given me the gift of life and it is something I cherish.”
“When you get involved with Gift of Life you may think your contribution is small,” said Noah. “However, your small act of kindness has the potential of turning into something truly significant.”
From their first meeting, the relationship between Michelle and Noah grew. Noah went on to raise over $22,000 and was ultimately recognized at Gift of Life's One Huge Night Gala in Los Angeles in November 2019 as the recipient of the Steven Bochco Award. The Steven Bochco Award is given to a volunteer, donor, or recipient who exemplifies the qualities Steven Bochco was best known for: vision, innovation, and storytelling.
Michelle shared this message with Noah and all of the attendees at the Los Angeles Gala:
Shortly after the Los Angeles Gala, we republished Noah's Meaningful Digression about How going the extra mile will help you find meaning.
Michelle Sion passed away on January 9, 2020 at 3:15pm PT. She was 56-years-old. To celebrate Michelle and give back to the organization which facilitated the donation, Noah and Michelle's daughter, Talia Sion are raising $100,000. Thank you for your love and support.
Noah's courageous and selfless act gave Michelle an additional two years with her family and friends, and now in her honor, Noah and Talia are again working to ensure that every single person who is battling blood cancer has a second chance at life.
Click here to read Noah's emotional letter to Michelle.