TORONTO — Two summers ago, as part of a North American initiative, Jewish camps were encouraged to hold bone marrow drives for people over the age of 18.
Last month, URJ Camp George director Jeff Rose was informed that one of his own staff members was identified as a match for a 62-year-old man suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).
MDS is a disorder of the hematopoietic stem cell in the bone marrow. Patients with MDS can develop severe anemia and require blood transfusions. In some cases, the disease worsens and the patient develops low blood counts caused by progressive bone marrow failure.
“I was shocked and in awe of the power of our community,” said Rose, after hearing the news. “I imagine that the feeling is akin to having won the lottery. I was so proud of our community for having supported this initiative in the first place and then to have found a donor amidst our young leaders is spectacular.”
Rose said he likes to encourage his staff and camp community to take part in various tikkun olam projects. “This is a pillar of Reform Judaism and one of the values that we espouse throughout our camp program.”
He said he invited the Gift of Life organization to Camp George to facilitate the bone marrow drive in 2012. He was told the names of participants would stay in the registry for a long time.
“It came as no surprise when the majority of our age-eligible staff lined up to do their part. Two years later, here we are.”
The process at this point is anonymous, Rose said. “I have tried to get some information, but out of respect to the donor and family, we are not privy to too much information at this time. As I understand, the potential donor is currently being contacted to have the process explained to him or her. Following this, I believe there are a series of tests that will be performed to ensure viability of the donation. Once this is done, I am told that if all goes forward, I will receive an email after the transplant occurs.”
Rose said tikkun olam projects are always interwoven into his camp’s planning. Other examples of volunteer initiatives have included car washes to raise money for the local fire department, food drives on visitor’s day to support the local food bank and camper performances at seniors’ residences.