We are proud to announce that at the 2012 RT Booklovers Convention, we will be working with DKMS to help those with Leukemia, a cancer that affects a person's bone marrow and blood. DKMS matches donors with people who have the disease. Today, DKMS Donor Recruitment Coordinator Erika shares her own story of working at the non-profit organization and how you can get involved. It's easier than you think! 

I am not afraid of needles. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like them, but ever since I was little I learned to just grit my teeth and deal with them. When I was finally old enough to donate blood, I was excited about being able to help others. 

Yes, I know I’m weird.

In college, I always made sure to donate at our blood drives every semester. Once while I was waiting to donate and scoping out the post-donation goodies, a volunteer from DKMS, the bone marrow donor center, approached me and asked “Have you ever thought of registering as a bone marrow donor?” 

I, an average person, knew nothing about bone marrow donation. My interest sparked, he explained the eligibility requirements and how I may be asked to donate if I was ever found to be a match to a patient. It was so simple. I thought, No big deal! I can do this! “Where do I sign?” After filling out a form, I swabbed the inside of my mouth with 2 cotton swabs. Done. No needles involved. I registered in 5 minutes and then went on with the rest of my life. 

Two years later, I’m a college graduate looking for a job. I come across a posting for DKMS. Something clicks in my brain. Hey, those are the bone marrow people! I would LOVE to work for them!

So here I am, helping to organize a DKMS donor drive at the RT Booklovers Convention in April! Since starting at DKMS I have worked with universities, businesses, and the families and friends of patients trying to find a match for their loved ones.

Nothing can humble you more than working with these incredible families. It is the most rewarding and the hardest part of what I do. Their bravery and selflessness goes far beyond anything I could understand. I have worked with families who are losing parents, siblings, and children. They hold drives with the hope that another family will not have to go through what they are going through. I cannot begin to describe the feeling of joy when a mother calls to say they have found a matching donor for her child. Every time I receive a present from a 9-year-old or a thank you card from a volunteer, I feel blessed. Blessed for my health, the health of my family, and blessed to be making a difference in the world one patient at a time. 

But we still have a long way to go. Today, 6 out of 10 patients still don’t receive a transplant. Their matches are out there somewhere; we just have to find them.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

GET EDUCATED: The easiest thing you can do to help is educate yourself. Most people don’t register because of the common misconceptions floating around out there. 

GET SWABBED: We will be swabbing donors at the RT Booklovers convention in April, but you don’t have to be in attendance to register as a lifesaver. Just follow this link and fill out the registration form and DKMS will send you a free registration kit in the mail. Just swab and send it back. Simple!

FUNDRAISE: While it cost DKMS $65 to add each donor to the registry, we never make this fee mandatory for any of our donors. However, since DKMS is a non-profit and does not receive government funding, we must rely on donations to fund donor registrations. 100% of your contribution is used to register new potential donors. Why not sponsor a donor or hold a fundraising event for DKMS? Every dollar counts!

RECRUIT: Want to do more? Why not pass on the lifesaving mission and recruit others to register. You can get your friends to register online using Facebook, Twitter, or word of mouth. Send one of our e-cards or email all your friends our registration link. Why not promote DKMS on your blog or website? You can even organize your own donor registration drive at work, school, in your community, or in honor a patient in need. I will walk you through the whole process.

- Erika Toto

You can email Erika for more information at erika@dkmsamericas.org or visit www.getswabbed.org to learn more about DKMS and the work that they are doing. RT will be hosting a DKMS drive this year at the annual RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago, to learn more, stay tuned to the RT Daily Blog!

Tags: RT Daily Blog, Convention
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