Saturday, June 03, 2023

When Chaverim of Bergen County and Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps were approached by Gift of Life, an organization that takes part in the international bone marrow registry, they learned of a desperate plea from a family in Australia with nowhere else to turn: Murray Foltyn, 41 and father of two, has been urgently searching for a matching blood stem cell donor. He has a rare blood cancer called myelofibrosis, and his doctors feel that his best course of treatment is a bone marrow transplant; however, to date, he has been unable to find a match in his family or in the worldwide registry. Chaverim of Bergen County and Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps partnered with Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps, together organizing a drive comprising seven locations throughout Teaneck, Bergenfield, Englewood and Fair Lawn.

Yoni Celnik of Teaneck took charge of arranging the details and logistics of the drive, pulling together over 30 volunteers from TVAC, BVAC and Chaverim to help with the efforts. “It was amazing to see all these volunteer organizations work together to achieve a common goal,” Celnik said. “I am hopeful the work we did will result in a match for Murray or anyone else in need.”

The drive was held this past Sunday, March 26, and was located at Bnai Yeshurun and Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, at Bais Medrash of Bergenfield and Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, at Anshei Lubavitch and Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, and at Ahavath Torah in Englewood. Throughout the morning, hundreds of swabs were collected, and in the next few weeks, the swabs will be processed at Gift of Life, resulting in hundreds of new entries into the worldwide bone marrow database.

Rivka Farrell, a TVAC member who also serves as a Gift of Life campus ambassador for New Jersey Institute of Technology, helped coordinate the efforts, and she also helped to expand the initiative, arranging for several sites in Passaic shuls. “Most patients require stem cell donations, which are similar to donating blood,” Farrell explained. “Patients are more likely to find a match with someone of a similar ethnicity. By expanding and diversifying the registry, we can increase the chances of each patient finding a match.”

After the drive, the leadership from Gift of Life reached out to share their feelings of gratitude. “The outpouring of support for Gift of Life Marrow Registry’s mission and the desire to help patients like Murray Foltyn find his lifesaving match is humbling,” said Marti Freund, chief strategy and operations officer at Gift of Life. “We are very thankful to Rabbi Senter, Yoni Celnik, Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the dozens of people who devoted their Sunday to growing the registry. There will undoubtedly be lives saved as a result of their work.”

It’s not too late to get swabbed and join the ranks of the millions of people on the international bone marrow registry! For more information, please visit www.giftoflife.org


Abby Cooper is a lieutenant of personnel at Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps and a reserve member at Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

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