Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Spawns a Series of Bone-Marrow Drives in September

Five local organizations dedicated to advocacy for childhood cancer research and awareness are collaborating their efforts in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, by hosting a series of bone-marrow drives from September 4 to 24, 2011.

Childhood Cancer Connection, Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry, Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation, Hawaii Cord Blood Bank and Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children have teamed up to shed light on the facts about childhood cancer, cord blood banking and bone marrow donation.

“Donors typically match based on ethnic background, so you can imagine that here in Hawaii it is especially challenging for children to find a match, given the unique variety of ethnic mixes,” said Randal K. Wada M.D., pediatric oncologist. Dr. Wada is the founder and medical director of the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank and Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry, as well as a transplant surgeon. “We strongly urge the public to attend a drive and register as a bone marrow donor; it’s a simple process that can save the life of a keiki,” added Wada.

Now 25 years old, Chantal Napalapalai is one example of a Hawaii childhood cancer survivor whose life was saved by a blood marrow donor. In 2001, at the age of 15, Napalapalai was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. After a relapse in November of last year, she underwent a bone marrow transplant. “I was truly blessed with a second chance at life from a non-related bone marrow donor,” said Napalapalai.

 To become registered as a bone marrow donor, all that is required is a cheek swab and a willingness to help save a life.  Each new registrant will be placed into the National Bone Marrow Registry, which matches pediatric and adult patients throughout the country with donors.

The drives will be staffed by volunteers from various community groups and organizations, including families of children with cancer from the Childhood Cancer Connection support group.

While not all will need bone-marrow transplants, 50-60 Hawaii children are diagnosed with cancer each year. At any given time, approximately 200 children are undergoing treatment, with the average time span of treatment ranging from one to three years. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children from birth to 14 years of age.

Bone-Marrow Drives in September:

  • Sunday, September 4 (Kickoff event): Big City Diner at Ward Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 10: Kahala Mall from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Friday, September 16: Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children from 5 – 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 17: Pearlridge Downtown from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 18: Windward Mall from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 24: Kakaako Park for the CureSearch Walk from 8 a.m. – 12 noon

For more information on the September events and Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation, please visit the Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation website: www.HCCF.org.