Teens Join DKMS To Fight Blood Cancers

Youth Advisory Board promotes awareness, raises money for bone marrow registry

Ava Williams saw the difference DKMS makes in the fight against blood cancers and disorders when her brother needed a bone marrow transplant in 2018. 

Her brother was only 13-months-old when he was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He recovered only to get diagnosed years later with a different type of leukemia, requiring a blood transplant. 

DKMS helped find the donor from Germany who saved her brother’s life. 

Williams, a Highland Park High School rising junior, joined the DKMS Youth Advisory Board. 

Every three minutes, an American is diagnosed with blood cancer, yet only 30% of all patients are able to find a compatible blood donor from within their family, according to DKMS. 

That is why DKMS has registered more than 10 million people around the world, trying to find the rare blood matches needed to save lives. 

“They helped my family so much, so I wanted to help them help other families like mine.”  

Ava Williams
Charlie and his sister, Georgia, visit their mom, Danielle Stephens.

Charlie Stephens, a Highland Park rising junior, like Williams, learned about DKMS and the Youth Advisory Board through personal experience.

“In 2013, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia, and she fought really hard for about two years,” Stephens said. “In 2015, she found a donor to give her a bone marrow transplant that saved her life. 

That was a meaningful experience for me and inspired me to join to help others.”

The Dallas Youth Advisory Board includes 14 students from the Episcopal School of Dallas, Greenhill School, The Hockaday School, Highland Park, Liberty, Parish Episcopal, and Shelton high schools. Board members educate peers, hold bone marrow drives, and promote DKMS. Currently, they have a goal to raise $5,670 to cover the cost of 126 registrations. 

“I wish everyone knew that getting swabbed is not a difficult process nor is it time-consuming (only taking 4 to 8 hours over 1-2 consecutive days), but it really means a lot to the families that need it,” Williams said. 

With only a few clicks, DKMS ships a potentially life-saving package. The package contains three swabs that look like longer-than-usual Q-Tips. Following the directions in the package or on the website, swab the inside of the month, seal the package, and send it back. 

Charlie Stephens in 2013 promotes a bone marrow drive for his mother, Danielle Stephens.

The cells collected could identify a match and an opportunity for a new life for a patient. 

Once a match is secured, the transplant replaces the unhealthy blood cells with healthy cells from the donor by infusing the cells which then move through the bloodstream and into the bone marrow. From here, the blood cells can grow and produce new healthy cells. However, before receiving the new cells, the cancer patient needs to kill all diseased cells; therefore, they undergo high doses of chemotherapy or radiation. Destroying the diseased cells is necessary so that they do not attack the new cells. 

“Society only works if you have people relying on each other,” Youth Advisory Board member and Highland Park rising junior Thompson Huthnance said. “And DKMS really relies on society.”

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