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On February 20th, Vice Mayor Jon Burgess introduced a Special Presentation on the need for bone marrow donors, in support of a resolution passed by the Homestead City Council to encourage residents to get tested to see if they are a match for Julian Morales, a 7-year-old boy, whose family has been looking for a bone marrow donor for four years. Julian has a rare genetic disorder called Dyskeratosis Congenita.
Vice Mayor Burgess explained, “I thought, what a great opportunity to bring forward and advise people of an opportunity to help one of our own citizens and to bring awareness to the Be The Match program as a whole — how the citizens of Homestead, South Dade, Miami, all of Florida and the entire world might be able to help [through registering as bone marrow donors].”
He introduced Mayra Garcia, Julian’s mother, along with Alison Dos Santos, a community engagement representative for the Icla Da Silva Foundation, which advocates for patients like Julian who need bone marrow transplants.
Dos Santos stated, “Many patients throughout the country and in our own community of Homestead are also waiting. They face a huge challenge, and that is the lack of diversity in the national bone marrow donor program.” For example, there are only enough donors for 46 percent of Hispanics, 41 percent of Asians and 23 percent of African-Americans. For people of mixed racial backgrounds, the number drops all the way to 15 percent.
Don Santos continued, “Ethnically diverse patients with blood disorders have a lower chance of finding a match. Our mission is to raise awareness of what it means to become a blood marrow donor. We are inviting community members to ‘be the match’ for Julian and thousands of others who are waiting to find their match. We’re trying to raise awareness of what it means to save someone’s life.”
Morales added, “I’m just here as a mother who’s desperate for help. We’ve been trying for four years. It’s not just my family that this will be helping, it’s multiple families.”
She added, “People get scared when it comes to the bone marrow registry and it’s so simple.” Being tested as a bone marrow donor involves a simple swab test.
People interested in helping can text JULIAN to 614.74 to receive a link to an online registration form. Donors need to be between the ages of 18-44 and can’t have previous conditions such as cancer, HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis B and C. For further information on becoming a bone marrow donor and other simple ways you can help, please contact Alison Dos Santos at Alison@icla.org.
Vice Mayor Burgess concluded the presentation, saying, “We want to help the Morales family as much as we can. Julian is a little, seven-year-old boy — full of life, struggling for life every day. If you have the need to help, or the will to help, please step forward.”
More Information: The Icla Da Silva Foundation and Be The Match
The Icla Da Silva Foundation is the largest recruitment center for the Be The Match Registry in the United States. It recruits over 38,000 new potential bone marrow donors every year, with a strong focus on minority communities. The Be The Match Registry manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world.