A flood of hopeful stem cell matches for Shira Klein poured into the Dance on Q studio in South Brunswick at exactly 3 p.m. on Sunday, when the Smiles4Shira Donor Drive was scheduled to begin.
Klein, a Marlboro mother of three, has been battling Hodgkins Lymphoma since 2010. After several treatments and subsequent relapses, she is now looking for her stem cell donor as she undergoes another round of chemotherapy.
Klein's sister-in-law, Heidi Rubino, and Shara Rudner, a board member for the non-profit cancer patient support organization Stomp the Monster, both have children who dance together at Dance on Q.
Another DOQ mom put two-and-two together, realizing that Rudner might be able to use her resources to help Rubino find a match for her sister-in-law.
"Heidi and Shara approached me to facilitate the event at Dance on Q and we have been relentless in getting the word out," said Maria Quezada, the executive director of the studio. "All of our competition dancers are present and assisting in the drive."
In the weeks leading up to the donor drive, Quezada recruited her dancers and their parents to help find Klein a stem cell match. The parents organized the event and made baked goods to sell at the drive, while the dancers posted fliers in their schools and used social media to spread the word.
Other local businesses were happy to help, Quezada said. Contributions were made by Joe's Deli, Tastee Sub Shop, Coca-Cola, Central Jersey Catering, Beyond the Stars, DJ Tapz, Stop & Shop, S and S Design, Pierre's and Belvidere Pharmacy. Best Buy also donated a TV for the studio to raffle off and Creative Solutions donated the fliers.
Quezada also dedicated the studio's website to the cause, featuring a video of Klein and her family asking the community for their help.
"My biggest fear is that we are not going to find a stem cell match for me, and that I'm not going to be around to watch my children grow up, get married, have their own kids. I just want to be around to do that stuff with my family," she tearfully said in the video.
At the end of the three hour drive, 106 eligible donors were swabbed and their stem cells sent to the lab for processing.
The bake sale and the TV raffle helped the studio raise $2,300, which will be donated directly to DMKS, the largest bone marrow center in the world, to help offset the cost of processing each swab and entering it into the database. It costs the lab approximately $65 per person who is swabbed, Rudner explained.
"Seventy percent of people in need of transplants do not have a family member match. So it's important, the more people in the registry, the more likely to find a match," Rudner said.
Quezada was proud of her dancers for coming together as a family to help make a positive impact on the community.
"Some of the dancers had things going on today that they canceled to be part of this effort," she said. "We're promoting that community service, that community unity. We have always had causes that we're part of, but hands down today has been an example of what happens when a community comes together."
Did you miss the donor drive but still want to help? You can donate financially online or by mailing a check to Smiles4Shira at 63 Riverside Drive in Red Bank, get swabbed on any day at Belvidere Pharmacy, or plan your own drive by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also "like" Smiles4Shira on Facebook to stay in the loop.
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