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Making a World of Difference - Partners for Life

May 04, 2006 by Gift of Life News
The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation’s Sixth Annual Partners for Life Gala, held on May 4 at New York’s Grand Hyatt, was a wonderful evening of magical moments and miracle meetings.  Hosted for the fourth consecutive year by Tony Award winning actor and star of the ABC series Alias, Ron Rifkin, the gala was a celebration of Gift of Life’s international scope, as transplant recipients from Australia, England and Israel met their life-saving donors for the very first time!
The Partners for Life Gala is Gift of Life’s premiere event, and the largest gathering of donors and recipients in the nation.  At this unique and exciting event, we pay tribute to our remarkable bone marrow and blood stem cell donors, as well as our financial supporters and network of volunteers who make Gift of Life’s mission a reality.
The first pair was introduced by the Daniel Arbess, Founding Partner of Xerion Partners, whose unwavering support of Gift of Life’s work has helped thousands of new donors join the Registry, and facilitated transplants for many patients in need.  Mr. Arbess explained that his goal in supporting Gift of Life was to build “a more complete registry that will serve as an insurance policy for now and the future.”  After announcing the establishment of Gift of Life Australia, an exciting initiative to recruit Jewish donors to the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, Mr. Arbess invited 25-year-old Michael Faust, of Sydney, Australia, to the stage.
Michael was introduced to his blood stem cell donor, Michael Striegold, of Stockton, California, who had joined Gift of Life’s Registry just two years earlier at Israel in the Ballpark, an event held at SBC Park (home of the San Francisco Giants) and hosted by Jewish Family and Children’s Services.  Excitement filled the room as the two young men met onstage, and this was just the beginning.
Mr. Steven Prince, Chairman and CEO of Sempra Commodities introduced the second donor/recipient pair.  Mr. Prince became actively involved in Gift of Life when he became aware of a little girl in need of a transplant who was unable to find a matching donor.  He told the story of Nachman Shalit, a recipient from Israel who was living in in Singapore at the time of his transplant.
Nachman’s donor, Mordechai Kliger, joined Gift of Life’s Registry during a massive recruitment campaign in 1997 for a patient named Solomon Weill.  As Nachman gratefully thanked Mordechai, he said, “Before the transplant, I was an only child.  Now, I have a blood brother.”
The final pair to meet was introduced by Idee Schoenheimer, who together with her husband, Pierre, is an ardent supporter of Gift of Life’s work.  She invited David Silver from London, England, and his wife, Nily, to the stage and introduced them to David‘s bone marrow donor, Keila Kenner.  Speaking about her transplant experience, Keila said it had “changed my life”. Keila joined Gift of Life’s Registry when her husband, Israel, helped organize drives several years ago for a patient in their community in need.
During dinner, all three pairs had the opportunity to get to know one another, and the annual group photo of Gift of Life’s donors and recipients swelled to its largest yet – over 80 people. Following dinner, Gift of Life’s Founder and Executive Director, Jay Feinberg, addressed the audience.  He announced with excitement that just a few days prior to the gala, Gift of Life had recruited its 100,000 donor.  Thanks to targeted recruitment in Jewish communities and a commitment to quality, Gift of Life has taken the chances of finding a match for Ashkenazi Jewish patients from less than five percent, to over 70 percent.  By building the Registry, that success rate can rise even higher.  Jay also announced an important initiative to increase recruitment in Sephardic communities as well.
The evening concluded with the presentation of the 2006 Partners for Life Awards.  The first award was presented to Taglit-birthright israel, for its role in helping build Gift of Life’s Registry with recruitment initiatives aimed at young adults traveling to Israel for the first time.  Taglit’s chairperson, Susan Gelman, accepted the award on behalf of the organization and gave a moving speech that paid tribute to the late Andy Bronfman z”l, the organization’s co-founder.
The second award was presented to Boro Park OB/GYN and Maimonides Medical Center, for their dedication to the establishment and early success of Gift of Life’s Cord Blood Program.  The award was accepted by Fran Schwartz, Practice Administrator of Boro Park OB/GYN and Mark McDougle, Executive Vice President and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center.
If you would like to receive information on future Gift of Life events, including the 2007 Partners for Life Gala, please send an email to