They may look like father and son, but the two men introduced by Dr. Corey Cutler, Medical Director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston had never met before. Dr. Cutler told the crowd that his patient, Douglas Young, a 60-year-old apple farmer from Woodstock, Conn., had first visited his doctor in May 2016 complaining of shoulder pain. Expecting that he had injured his rotator cuff, Doug was shocked to learn that his diagnosis was a life-threatening blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome.
His best hope was a blood stem cell transplant, but he needed a matching donor. None of Doug’s siblings were his match, and since children are always a half-match for each parent, his four sons were disappointed they couldn’t help him.
Doug was incredibly fortunate – a search of the worldwide registry showed that his matching donor had just joined Gift of Life’s registry in March 2016, only weeks before Doug’s diagnosis.
Timothy Hahn, 23, joined Gift of Life at a swab drive held by his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta while he was a student at McDaniel College. Just six weeks later he received the call that he was Doug’s match and after the first transplant, when Doug needed additional stem cells to help his recovery, Timothy gladly donated a second time.
“If I had the power to help someone else, it was a call to serve,” said Timothy. “My sister beat bone cancer and is now ten years cancer-free, which played a huge part in why I didn’t hesitate to donate.”
The big moment arrived, and the two men embraced. The highly emotional moment left them both nearly speechless, but Doug’s humor shone through as he said, “I sat at home wondering what this young person looked like and, you know, I am really darned close!” Doug also acknowledged the incredible effort it takes to make every lifesaving transplant possible. “I feel great, and I did not feel great. I was very surprised when I was diagnosed, and it’s amazing the network and people it takes behind the scenes to make transplants possible. Thank you all.”
Gift of Life Chairman of the Board Bill Begal took the stage to accept the presentation of a check from Stan Starkman, the president of Hillel at Northeastern University, and Mack Krell, the Vice President of AEPi fraternity’s Northeastern chapter. Every April the two organizations join forces to hold a river cruise to benefit Gift of Life.
We are grateful for the support of these two incredible organizations, and thankful to be in partnership with them. Their generosity gives hope to those who are searching for matching donors.
NBC 10 Boston News anchor Phil Lipof (above, left) served as our master of ceremonies for the fifth consecutive year. He first became involved in the mission to cure blood cancer in high school when a friend was diagnosed with leukemia. Phil joined the registry and years later was called as a match for a 56-year-old woman. Although another donor was chosen, Phil hopes that someday he will be able to help someone through a transplant. Thank you Phil, for your dedication to saving lives.
Dr. Corey Cutler (above, center), Medical Director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. To date, 148 Gift of Life donors have completed their stem cell donations at Dana-Farber, and we look forward to many more in the future.
Dalton Letorney (above, right), a sophomore at Boston College, sang the national anthem during the opening ceremony.
To launch the race portion of the event, a swarm of amazing superheroes (plus a few wild looking tigers!) lined up to run the Superhero Sprint. Every one of Gift of Life’s mini-heroes received a bright orange cape and were awarded medals for completing the 50-yard dash.
More than 500 participated from all over New England participated in the event, with walkers following the 5k runners out of the starting line for two laps around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
The top male finishers were Bruno Piazzarolo, Paul Studer, and Ben Young. Top female finishers were Jordan Smelker, Anne Corrigan, and Patricia Barry.
Click here for the full race results at the YankeeTiming website.
Gift of Life thanks our generous sponsors for their support of Steps for Life, including Platinum Sponsors Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, CBRE, McKesson, and Rubius Therapeutics. Your involvement with our mission helps to save lives.
As the event wrapped up, Bill reminded the crowd that, “It only takes one person to save a life, and you have the power within you to be someone’s cure.”
Patients in need who do not have a match in their family have the best chance of finding a donor through the international bone marrow registry. To become a volunteer donor, please visit www.giftoflife.org/register. While not every donor is called as a match, you may someday be given the miraculous chance to save another person’s life.
Click here to view the event photo gallery.
Click here to watch the entire opening ceremony, including Timothy and Doug's emotional first meeting!
We look forward to seeing you at the Steps for Life 5k of Boston in spring 2020.