Louisville natives embark on cross country mission for bone marrow donors
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The goal is 50 states and 50,000 donors in 2015 as three Louisville natives take on a life-saving, cross country mission.
Days before hitting the road, sisters Alex and Sam Kimura along with their best friend Taylor pack up boxes full of bone marrow donor swabs, registration cards, and supplies for their non-profit, Sharing America's Marrow.
“Let's go across the country, let's go to all 50 states and sign up as many donors as possible,” Alex Kimura recalled saying a year ago.
That's exactly what they're doing after spending months planning out their trip.
“All this got started in 2010 when I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Severe Aplastic Anemia,” Sam Kimura told WDRB News.
At the time, she was 17-years-old and a junior in high school. She says the disease stops her body from making bone marrow, red and white blood cells, and plasma. Since her initial diagnosis, Sam has undergone alternative drug therapy and takes about 25 pills a day. Her disease is currently in remission but there's a 50 percent chance she could relapse. She needs a donor, but doesn't have a match.
“It was pretty devastating just to hear that news that there's not a single person out there that can help you,” said Sam.
Not even her sister or the nearly 10 million people in the bone marrow registry at the time.
“It really hit me hard that I couldn't save her and I just said to myself if I can't be the one to cure her of her disease, we were gonna find the donor who could,” said Alex.
So in a big red van, which they've named Maggie, the plan for 2015 is to hit up schools, businesses, festivals, and concerts to register 50,000 people, hoping to find a bone marrow match for Sam and thousands of others.
The girls plan on starting in Louisville, heading south, traveling up the east coast and across the country to the west coast. Hawaii and Alaska are even in the mix, leaving Maggie behind and hopping on a plane.
When loading their van up with supplies and stocking the shelves with food, they recall why they've taken on this task.
“Let people know that there's a need for bone marrow donors and that you could be the one person in the world that could save somebody's life,” said Alex
“We wanna really break through the misconceptions people have about donating bone marrow,” said Sam.
While looking for a match for their friend and sister the last five years, they've been working on something so much bigger.
“We can give people a second chance,” said Alex, “We can save lives.”
In the process, they found their true passion.
Sharing America's Marrow will have a launch party Monday, January 19 at Against the Grain Brewery from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. They'll hit the ground running bright and early the next day to begin their mission.
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