When a former Hillsboro resident was diagnosed with leukemia, many wanted to help but weren’t sure how. But now, thanks to some brainstorming and the Gift of Life organization, the residents of Marion County had a chance to help.
Corey Burton, a 47 year old man who now lives in Ellis with his wife and two children, was well known in the Hillsboro area from his time here. Many also know his sister Collette Haslett (and husband Jeff) who currently teaches fifth grade at Hillsboro Elementary School and is also an assistant coach for the Hillsboro High School volleyball team.
Burton’s normal life was suddenly interrupted this summer when he received a life changing diagnosis. While his cancer is currently in remission, he will need to undergo a bone marrow transplant to increase the chances of keeping the cancer in remission. Frustrated that there wasn’t a family match and no other matches on the horizon, a local Marion County resident decided to do something about the problem.
“Jeff Haslett and I had a conversation at the MS football scrimmage about Corey and their struggle to find a match. We talked about all of the family getting tested and they could not find a family match so they went to the national registry. This lead to a conversation about how it would it be great for a group or organization to set up a bone marrow drive for donors to be on the national registry both for Corey and for anyone else who would be in need,” said Danielle Rogers, lifetime resident of Hillsboro.
Rogers kept thinking about it all. She mentioned the conversation to her boss, Becky Walsh, State Farm Insurance Agent in Hillsboro and Marion. They did the legwork and set up a bone marrow drive on Saturday through the Gift of Life registry.
Gift of Life is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida and is an international public bone marrow and blood stem cell registry. The organization is a world leader in facilitating transplants for children and adults suffering from life-threatening diseases like leukemia and lymphoma.
“Gift of Life sent us swab kits. We had to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to be the organizers and once our kits arrived we had to have a telephone conference training session with the gift of life people,” said Rogers.
The drive was from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the State Farm Insurance office at 114 N. Main in Hillsboro. Donors registered on their phone (or a loaner iPhone if they did not have one) and then were able to do a quick and easy mouth swab. Over 50 people came and participated with many stating they had no excuse not to do it.
“I just kept thinking about if this was someone I loved. I would want people to come out for them and do this simple thing. I figured I could do it, too,” said Shelby Kendrick who came with her daughter, husband and parents.
Refreshments were also provided for those who participated.
While the drive was a success, but there were many other events going on that same day. And many people aren’t around on Saturdays. The organizers realized there are things they would do differently next time.
“I think next time, we will take kits to people since it was difficult for many to come to us. We could have hit flag football and other events and gotten more donors,” said Walsh.
The women did do extra work and met with the Tabor College Women’s soccer team on Friday night.
“We had 17 women donate and get their mouths swabbed,” said Rogers, “It was a huge help to have Ian Thompson and his team participate.”
Collette Haslett was around for much of the drive helping out and thanking people personally.
“Thanks to everyone that stopped by and joined the Gift of Life bone marrow registry. We had a great turnout and appreciate all of the support from the community,” said Haslett.
While they had a good turnout, the women would like to finish up the kits that Gift of Life sent them. They will be setting up a booth this Friday night at the HHS Homecoming Football game at the Joel Wiens Stadium where people can get swabbed up until halftime. If you would still like to have your mouth swabbed, please call Danielle Rogers or Becky Walsh at the State Farm Insurance office at 620-947-5900 or stop in at 114 N. Main in Hillsboro. They can accept swabs this week from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. through Friday. Ages 18-45 are free while those 45-60 are asked to cover the lab fee of $60.