News From Ramaz

US Students Swab Their Cheeks, Hear From Gift of Life Donors and Donation Recipient
Posted 05/09/2018 02:05PM


Twelfth and eleventh graders had the amazing opportunity to hear four personal accounts about the incredible work of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.

Rabbi Yigal Sklarin, 12th Grade Dean, opened the event by recounting his own experience of twice being called upon as a match and donating his stem cells. He described how his experience inspired his brother Eli, while he was studying abroad in Israel, to get swabbed and entered into the GOL registry. A few years later, while a student at Maryland University, Eli was matched to donate his stem cells. These stem cells were donated to Mr. Allen White who is alive today because of Eli's donation. In 2015, Rabbi Sklarin brought his brother and Mr. White to the US to share their experiences and talk about the critical work of Gift of Life.

Sitting in the auditorium that fateful May morning was a graduating senior, Alex Leibowitz, who in three short months would be beginning his studies at Dartmouth University. Alex, along with 55 other seniors got swabbed, but thought nothing of it. A few months later, while getting acclimated to his new environment, Alex got a phone call from a 561 area code he did not recognize and choose to ignore it! After a few tries he finally answered the call and heard that he had matched for a man with leukemia and that his donation was needed soon. Alex answered the call of Hineni and traveled to make his donation.

Alex explained that while the Gift of Life made him feel like a hero for his donation, he felt that it was an easy deed to help another and that the real heroes were the next two speakers -- his recipient and Mr Nick Hudson from the Gift of Life. Alex said that while he was lucky enough to be a donor, its recipients fighting for their lives and the people who work for the Gift of Life are the real heroes. They even inspired him to run a cheek swabbing drive at Dartmouth and speak to a group on Birthright about how important it is to get swabbed.

With that brief introduction, Alex returned to the US and introduced Mark Citron, 68, a neurobiologist from Calabasas, Calif., who recounted his ten-year battle with cancer until he received Alex's donation. Mr. Citron described the process of having his bone marrow wiped out by chemotherapy to make way for possible donor's stem cells and the hope he and his family had when they heard that a match had been found.

After Mr. Citron's moving story, Mr. Nick Hudson from the Gift of Life told his moving story of donating bone marrow to a young boy and the blessing of seeing this boy grow up and eventually attend Mr. Hudson's wedding!

After these four stories were recounted, a picture was placed on the projector showing Alex in 2015 signing up for the registry and a message of how this cheek swab in this moment could have life-saving effects in the near future. By the end of the program, close to 100 current students were entered into the Gift of Life Registry, but more important, 300 faculty and students were moved to get involved with the Gift of Life and their mission of saving lives.

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