Bone marrow drive held to help St. Bernadette student

A little boy fighting a big disease received some much-needed support from his community and school on Friday, February 5.

John Faro Vitale, a St. Bernadette first-grader battling Fanconi Anemia, a rare blood disease, is struggling to find a bone marrow match for the transplant he needs. His supporters from his school and the larger community, however, hope Friday’s bone marrow drive held at St. Bernadette School (1313 83rd Street) will help change that.

“It was a huge, huge success,” said John Faro’s mom, Andrea Vitale. “We had 251 people sign up on the Be The Match [Registry] and we feel so blessed. The amount of support from the schools and community, from family, from friends, it’s just amazing.”

“We were able to add over 250 people to the registry, which is a great turnout,” said family friend Victoria Iocolano. “We feel it was a great success. A lot of parents from the school came, the family came, community members came and parishioners from the church, so the word of mouth that we spread really helped.”

According to Iocolano, without a bone marrow transplant, the six-year-old is highly likely to have bone marrow failure and to develop leukemia.

“It also affects other parts of his body such as his kidneys and his thyroid, and it makes him more susceptible to other types of cancer,” she said. “So it’s a very psychologically demanding disorder, and he’s only six.”

During the event, every $100 raised helped add a donor to the registry.

The Marrow Donor Registry Drive accepts donors between the ages of 18 and 44. Through the Be the Match Registry—a bone marrow registry that includes nearly 12.5 million volunteers ready to be a donor—patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases could be saved.

“It was a very emotional night but it gave hope to the family,” Iocolano said. “It gave hope to the parents and it was really nice to see.”

To donate to Vitale’s transplant journey, visit

There will also be a blood and bone marrow drive on Tuesday, March 15 from 3 to 7 p.m. held at P.S. 102 (211 72nd Street). This will be the third annual blood drive held at the school in memory of Mathiew Johnson, son of June Johnson, who is organizing the event.

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