June 19, 2024
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June 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Gift of Life Urges You to ‘Swab for Steve’

The Gift of Life Marrow Registry, a public bone marrow and blood stem cell registry, is launching a swab campaign with the goal of finding a match for Steve, an active member of both his local and the broader Jewish community. Steve’s family reached out to the Gift of Life in the hope of creating a network of specifically Ashkenazi Jews (but everyone should swab!) who could potentially be a match. Currently battling chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, Steve has remained strong and hopeful through his journey, and patiently awaits the match needed for his recovery.

A few drives have already taken place for Steve, in which dedicated volunteers assist people in conducting their cheek swab. Once submitted, their DNA is entered into the public registry with only the slight possibility of a match, which would result in a blood stem cell donation.

Marti Freund, director of organizational advancement for Gift of Life, described the process of finding a match for Steve. She explained that matching is based on genetics. Siblings match 25% of the time, and children usually end up only being a haploid (half match), which is not enough for donation. In Steve’s case, his son Daniel matched 4/6 of the proteins necessary (as opposed to the expected 3/6), and was able to donate stem cells to his father back in November.Unfortunately, the cancer returned, causing Steve and his family to look to the community for support. Based on similar genetic ancestry, the Ashkenazi community is currently being targeted as the best hope of finding a match as soon as possible, and drives are being planned in different communities in the region.

The best swabs are from people between the ages of 18-35, although Gift of Life accepts potential donors ages 18-60. Freund emphasized that joining the registry is a great mitzvah and increases the statistical odds of finding someone a match; it does not mean immediate donation.

Steve has been deeply involved in the Jewish community for as long as his son, Daniel, can remember. He was active in schools, shuls and his neighborhood, always there to lend a hand whenever it was needed. At home, those values were clearly modeled for the family.

“The house was a revolving door of guests. Whenever people needed a place to stay, they were welcome,” noted Daniel.

Steve’s genuine passion and care for his community and the Jewish people at large set the precedent for his outlook on life. According to Daniel, his father’s illness doesn’t define him. Steve expects nothing in return for his years of community service, although he’s grateful for the support. After an event led by Daniel, where 36 swabs were taken, Steve was energized by his community rallying behind him. Additionally, friends and neighbors help with cooking or errands, which allows Steve and his family to continue managing their situation day by day. The support from the Gift of Life has been tremendous, with constant check-ins and assistance and volunteers for events. Steve’s strength inspires the rest of his family to cope with their situation in a healthy way.

The next swab drive for Steve will be in the Five Towns on July 11.

Find out how you can help Steve by visiting giftoflife.org/steve and ordering a swab kit. If you are interested in joining the registry, visit giftoflife.org/swab, click on “select your event,” select “Jewish Link Drive for Steve,” complete the registration and a swab kit with instructions will be delivered to your home. This event is open until July 31.


Hannah Kirsch just returned from her gap year in Israel and will be attending Binghamton University in the fall.

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