Hillel, bone marrow foundation search for donors

The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation joined hands with Rutgers Hillel to look out for possible bone marrow donors in University students.

“What Hillel’s trying to do is bring students together to give back to the community. By partnering with us, we’re helping them to do so by holding a bone marrow drive,” said Shayne Pilpel, lead recruitment coordinator for the foundation.

The bone marrow drive serves as the 10th collaborative effort between the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and the University, he said.

Hillel organized the event to be a part of its “Days Without Hate” campaign, which began Monday, said Aviva Rosenberg, community service chair.

“Ultimately we’re trying to send a message to the campus and foster an environment so people feel safe,” said Rosenberg, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Rosenberg contacted Pilpel a few months ago and both groups started planning for the event, Pilpel said.

“We send them everything from consent forms, ballpoint pens, informational brochures, the testing kits — everything they need to [run the drive],” he said.

Pilpel engaged Rosenberg and her team of volunteers in a 20-minute conversation instructing them on how to use the testing equipment, he said.

Student volunteers at the drive looked carefully for potential donors who, if their blood type is compatible with a specific patient, could potentially cure diseases like leukemia, said Kirill Pennington, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore who volunteered at the event for his fraternity, Theta Chi.

“We’re asking people to swab their mouth with tissue samples, package the sample and send their information to a lab,” said Pennington, whose fraternity partnered with Hillel for other events in the “Days Without Hate” campaign.

The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation will study the samples and send the results back to the University, informing them if potential matches were made, Pilpel said.

People with compatible matches will be notified and will have the chance to go through a process of extracting and donating their bone marrow, Pennington said.

“They make a small incision in your hip and extract it just like blood. You’re under anesthesia and are exhausted for the next few days, but after a few days it gets better and a life is saved,” he said.

Regardless of the pain that might accompany the process, Ricki Tannenbaum, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she would like to donate anyway, should her sample prove to be a match.

“There’s no way I wouldn’t do it. Imagine if you’re a match,” she said. “That’s like 1 in a million chance — you’re going to say, ‘I don’t want to be in pain’ and someone else is going to die?”

Tannenbaum hopes to provide a compatible sample because she believes the benefits of donating a bone marrow outweigh its negatives.

“It’s the best form of charity you could do. It’s literally saving a life. There’s no bigger deed of kindness,” she said.

Matt Homsi, a member of Theta Chi, encouraged people to put aside their temporary discomfort and donate.

Homsi, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, who donated blood numerous times, said people should consider the positive impact their actions can have on patients on the brink of death.

“Until you’re in a position where you need someone’s help, I guess you won’t realize that by doing these things you can make a difference,” he said.

Theta Chi members hope this event, as well as others in the “Days Without Hate” campaign, will help them reach their goal of 20 community services hours, twice the required amount needed, Pennington said.

Rosenberg, who will continue to hold other events for the “Days Without Hate” campaign, said she enjoyed working with The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and looks forward to future collaborations.

Pilpel agreed and said the University’s support in the bone marrow foundation was an integral element in promoting his message and reaching out to patients with blood-related cancers.

“Rutgers Hillel has been extremely supportive of our mission and we’re extremely grateful for it,” he said.

Ankita Panda contributed to this story.

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