TORONTO — A Toronto man is one of 25 people climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in support of a Canadian Blood Services project to create a national public umbilical cord blood bank.
Jaime Stein, 35, embarked on the seven-day climb up – and two-day climb down – the Tanzanian mountain Aug. 6 in support of the new blood bank. His father died of leukemia, one of the many diseases that can be treated with stem cells from umbilical cords.
“It means a lot to be able to do something for my dad. He was so important in my life,” Stein says.
Right now, if someone needs cord blood, they’re placed on a waiting list for a bone marrow transplant. However, the chances of finding a match aren’t particularly high. According to Canadian Blood Services, around half of all patients who need a blood stem cell transplant from a non-relative are unable to find a match.
Canada is the only G8 country without a national public umbilical cord blood bank, according to Canadian Blood Services CEO Graham Sher, who is also taking part in the climb.
Canadian Blood Services is leading the fundraising campaign for the cord blood bank, with a goal of $12.5 million.
“We may be climbing Africa’s highest peak, but the challenges we’ll encounter are nothing compared to what patients face daily when they are waiting for stem cell transplants to fight life threatening conditions like leukemia or lymphoma,” Sher said in a statement.
“Our team of climbers understands the courage and strength needed for Kilimanjaro is insignificant compared to what these patients endure every day.”
To train for the climb, Stein has been hiking for roughly three hours every Sunday, as well as training in the gym throughout the rest of the week, since January.
While he’s away, Stein will be tweeting photos from the climb to raise more awareness about the project.
Stein said the goal for the team was $250,000, and by the end of July, they had already raised more than $335,000. His personal goal was originally $10,000, but he collected more than $25,000.
“My goal was $20 from a lot of people, as opposed to a couple of big donations,” he says.
The social media professional first posted his donation link on Facebook and other social media sites on Feb. 12 around midnight, and overnight, he raised $1,200.
Since then, he’s been sending out emails asking for donations and has continued to repost his donation online.
He said it’s been interesting to hear from people who choose to donate. He said there are people he hasn’t heard from in years who made donations and sent personal notes about how they were touched by one of 50 blood-related diseases that can be treated using stem cells.
Stein has some experience climbing mountains, but Kilimanjaro is a big undertaking nonetheless.
“I wouldn’t say I’m an avid mountain climber. I’ve never done anything of this magnitude,” he said.
But the importance of the climb is that it not only gives him a personal challenge, but also the feeling of helping the community.
“I see it as a chance to carry the torch,” he said. “To try to help all Canadians who would ever find themselves in need of a transplant.”
Follow the adventurers on Twitter @Climb4Cord.