When Daniel Stanton was six years old, he received a stem cell transplant that saved his life. Today, more than 10 years later, the Ottawa teenager’s struggle with leukemia is a painful memory with a happy ending. But for his mother, Liset Stanton, it was a call to action.
It’s why Ms. Stanton volunteered to be the Ottawa co-chair of Canadian Blood Services’
Campaign for All Canadians, a three-year, $12.5-million fundraising campaign to create a national cord blood bank that would make it easier for Canadian patients to access the stem cells that could save their lives. The cord blood bank was officially launched last June, thanks to the generosity of more than 250 individual and corporate donors and more than 50 volunteers across the country.
Cord blood, which comes from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord, is a rich source of stem cells that can be used in the treatment of over 80 diseases and disorders. Canadian Blood Services estimates that on any given day, hundreds of Canadians are in need of a stem cell transplant. While Daniel Stanton’s life was saved by cord blood imported from Europe, the bank collects cord blood at five Canadian hospitals and makes it available to patients across the country as well as internationally.
How do you raise funds for a medical procedure that is virtually unknown to the vast majority of Canadians? Unlike breast cancer or diabetes – just two of the best-known health-related causes – few Canadians are familiar with stem cells, much less cord blood.
Margaret Miedema, director of fund-raising for Canadian Blood Services, acknowledges that educating prospective donors was the campaign’s first challenge.
“The education piece came first – making the connection between stem cells and cord blood,” she says. “Once people understood that and recognized the needs of patients waiting for that lifesaving match, it really resonated with them.”
The real key to the campaign’s success, she said, was recruiting volunteers like Liset Stanton.
“We had these passionate volunteers on board who had compelling stories to tell,” she says. “Either someone’s dad had passed away from leukemia because he didn’t have a match, or someone’s child was saved by a stem cell transplant. People give to people: that’s the basis of fundraising.”
Ms. Miedema was sitting at home one Thanksgiving Day when she received a telephone call from Edmonton auto dealer Marshall Eliuk, a survivor of aplastic anemia whose life was saved by a platelet transfusion. While he had not required a stem cell transplant, Mr. Eliuk recognized that many others with similar conditions do. He increased his campaign pledge to $1.5-million, the largest single donation received. “That call absolutely blew me away,” Ms. Miedema said.
During the fundraising campaign, Liset Stanton showed potential donors Daniel’s “bead story,” a string of beads with each bead representing a step in her son’s journey toward recovery. The string is now 30 feet long, and helped her explain the campaign to prospective donors.
“There was a bead for each blood transfusion, a bead for each round of chemotherapy, a bead for the stem cell transplant,” says Ms. Stanton. “It was a very visual representation of all the things he went through, and it had a big impact.”
For more information, please see http://campaignforcanadians.ca.
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