Every year thousands of South Africans are diagnosed with leukaemia – a cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called “blasts”. For many patients unable to stay in remission with chemotherapy alone, a bone marrow stem cell transplant becomes a life-saving treatment option, but only if they can find a perfect donor match.
The formation of The Sunflower Fund in 1999 was inspired by the struggle against leukaemia of two brave young men, Darren Serebro and Chris Corlett, and started by a group of concerned parents whose children had contracted leukaemia, and sadly, in some cases had lost their battle against it.
The Sunflower Fund’s vision is to give all South Africans diagnosed with leukaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders the chance of life, irrespective of their race and financial circumstances.
Its mission is to educate and recruit a viable number of well-informed potential bone marrow stem cell donors who are ethnically diverse, in an effort to save the lives of those needing a transplant when suffering from life-threatening blood disorders like leukaemia.
With the odds of finding a donor being 1:100 000, The Sunflower Fund is committed to expanding the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) to at least 100 000 donors per ethnic group in South Africa. The efforts of The Sunflower Fund and others have already increased the number of donors on the SABMR from a mere 1 200 in 1999 to over 70 000 at the moment.
The Sunflower Fund also aims to secure the financial support required to pay for the tissue typing tests of potential new bone marrow stem cell donors to join the SABMR. It costs the Fund R2 000 per person for the test, and from April 2003 to September 2014, it spent more than R26 million million on tissue typing throughout South Africa. This is a fantastic achievement and reason for more South Africans to support the work of the Fund.
The Sunflower Fund’s slogan is “Share a Little, Save a Life”, and we can all make a contribution by either registering as a potential bone marrow stem cell donor or making a donation in support of its work.
Please mark the date – Wednesday, 16 September 2015 – when people living in and around Johannesburg will have the opportunity to become a stem cell donor and included in the South African Bone Marrow Registry. To participate, you have to pre-register by Friday, 11 September 2015.
Click here for more information.
I’m excited about supporting The Sunflower Fund over the next few weeks, and invite you to join me on this journey.