On a snowy day in December, Naomi Go, Project Manager of OtherHalf, and OneMatch Patient Liaison Specialist, Mary-Lynn Pride, met James and Amy in a small room at the back of the Canadian Blood Services’ office. With everyone’s knees almost touching, James shared their current struggle to find a donor match for Amy, a Chinese leukemia patient. It was heartbreaking to hear about James and Amy’s fruitless search for a suitable stem cell donor thus far, especially considering how easy it is to become a stem cell donor. The fact that OtherHalf was gearing up for their annual national Chinese stem cell drive on March 26, 2011, with the objective of recruiting members of the Chinese-Canadian community as potential stem cell donors, gave hope to the anxious couple. It was everyone’s hope then that Amy would be able to find a stem cell match in time.
But would hope be enough?
In 2011, the March 26th annual stem cell drive (otherwise known as 326) expanded its scope from 4 locations nationwide to 8 locations in 3 major Canadian cities: Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver. As you can imagine, coordinated and organized planning was key. With team leads in all three cities, OtherHalf laid out its nationwide strategy, utilizing community support, media exposure, medical doctors’ endorsements, and social media to outreach to different segments of the community.
For the first time in Canada, Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver, Mayor Frank Scarpitti of Markham, and Mayor Dave Barrow of Richmond Hill, declared March to be Chinese Stem Cell Awareness Month to help highlight the need for more Chinese stem cell donors to help save patients’ lives. Chinese Christian churches across Canada declared March 27th a day of prayer for Chinese stem cell patients.
Calgary was the newest addition to the 2011 OtherHalf family, and being the new kid on the block meant that there was a lot of information for the team to catch up on. But their enthusiasm and commitment to the cause resulted in great donor numbers and raised the profile of the cause in a province with great registrant potential.
Vancouver, the breakout star in 2010 with incredible donor registration numbers, expanded the drive to 2 locations. The Vancouver team kicked off its drive program with a survey conducted by University of British Columbia medical students to poll the public as to determine the main deterrents for the student population to registering as stem cell donors. The Simon Frasier University team harnessed its creative forces and wrote, composed and produced the official musical theme for the 2011 drive. Along with these efforts, Vancouver pulled off another fantastic event.
Toronto team was challenged with the possibility of expanding its reach to 5 drive locations. Like Calgary and Vancouver, Toronto was blessed with an incredible planning committee. The members and co-chairs worked together to figure out logistics of handling 5 donor registration sites in Toronto.
A key success for all three cities was the support from community groups. These groups were the eyes, ears, hands, feet, and heart of the drive, as volunteers from these groups signed up to help in record numbers. From postering to canvassing to spreading the word on Facebook, OtherHalf’s volunteer force was parallel to none.
As a result, from all of these key pieces, 326 Campaign drew over 500 volunteers on the day of the drive and registered 5,894 new donor registrants for the OneMatch stem cell registry.
And the best part of all? Before the national Chinese stem cell drive took place, Amy found a match.
Click the picture to enlarge.