John and I registered to be bone marrow donors in 2007 when I learned about a bi-racial toddler from San Francisco who desperately needed a marrow match. A few weeks later, I learned about a 6 month old baby in Sacramento that desperately needed a donor as well. Both of these children inspired me to start my own efforts to get people to join the bone marrow registry. After a lot of guilt-tripping, I managed to successfully get 20 people to sign up. ;-) I wasn't much, but it was something.
When both of those babies died, it absolutely broke my heart. I couldn't begin to fathom what those poor mothers were going through...yet.
After Ethan passed away, I wanted his memory to live on somehow. People needed to know his story. After speaking with our social worker, I coordinated a soft blanket drive for the ICN babies as a show of gratitude for the staff. We wanted other parents to be able to hold their precious, dying babies in a "real blanket" instead of the one from the hospital. The ICN staff managed to warm and comfort our hearts despite the severe coldness that engulfed us as Ethan slowly slipped away. They took such good care of Ethan. We collected 27 blankets and those blankets were given to 27 families in situations similar to our own.
Now I understood the desperation and pain that my "sisters in grief" went through.
As Ethan's one year death anniversary loomed ahead, I felt compelled to do something to make sure that his death was not in vain. I must have had premonitions the year I got pregnant with Ethan because I actually promoted a local blood drive on my old blog. So, for his one year death anniversary, I decided to hold a blood drive in Ethan's honor. When Ethan was still alive he received two transfusions of O+ blood and fresh frozen plasma.
And those transfusions bought us more time with our son.
I coordinated a drive with Blood Centers of the Pacific because their organization provided the blood for Ethan's transfusions. The Ethan Nikolas de Leon Memorial Blood Drive was a huge success. Over 50 people tried to donate (some from off the street!) with a little over 30 people being accepted as successful donors. THREE lives are saved for every one pint that is donated.
A little over 90 lives were saved because of Ethan. Whatta kid. :)
My most recent charitable venture has been serving as a Team Captain for the 1st EVER Hemophilia Walk here in the Bay Area. I named our team "Lucky Factor Seven" (for reasons that should be obvious to you by now...lol!) and my team consists of the amazing group of people! We've got close to 60 people walking in memory of Ethan and in support of Niki. As of this date, Lucky Factor Seven has raised close to $9,000. (Thank you walkers, donors, and virtual walkers!) Even Anthony and Kevin donated to the cause with their piggy banks money. The director of Hemophilia Foundation of Northern California wrote a comment on our team page calling us the "star" and I'm ecstatic that Niki's 1st Hemophilia Walk turned out to be such a success.
I wish Ethan were alive to see it.
There are over 300 people walking (60 are "Luckies") and Lucky Factor Seven is the TOP fundraising team! If you're free this Saturday, April 17th, please join us at Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley. The walk begins at 10am. If you're unable to participate in the walk, but you'd like to show your support, PLEASE donate to this wonderful cause. Even $7 helps. We really need to raise awareness for this disorder. :)
Click here if you want to donate. Only three days left until the walk! Check out our team shirt below.