The donors who attended the blood drive at P.S. 102 on Tuesday, March 15 are not all related by blood, but are still brought together by it — and the desire to help others in need.
Donors were also brought together by the need to help first grader John Faro Vitale, a young boy battling a rare blood disease called Fanconi Anemia, who requires a bone marrow transplant to cure his condition. The blood drive was held in conjunction with the bone marrow registry program which could help Faro and other individuals struggling with similar conditions find a bone marrow match.
The blood drive has been held for the past two years in the memorial of Mathiew Johnson, a former janitor at the school who died of a heart attack. According to his mother, June Johnson, Mathiew was known by family and friends for his giving spirit, particularly as a blood donor.
In deciding to host a bone marrow registry program at the event, Johnson said she reached out to Faro’s mother, Andrea Vitale, after reading a story about his struggle to find a donor in The Home Reporter. “She was just amazing for thinking about getting this on her blood drive,” said Vitale, “It’s great, it’s beautiful.”
Raffle prizes were offered for blood donors, and several local businesses and organizations provided prizes and food, including Lioni Italian Heroes, Romano’s, Greenhouse Cafe, Leske’s Bakery, Savarese French Pastry and Papa Pasquale Ravioli. Cake was also provided byCommunity Board 10.
Despite long lines, donors waited patiently for their turn to donate, ultimately resulting in over 80 pints of blood being collected by the end of the night.
“It’s a very warm blood drive,” said Johnson. “People aren’t rushing to get home.”
For some visitors, the process of donating blood was a personal venture. Frank Spadaro, a donor at the event, said that his grandson Jack was born with a rare blood disease that also required a bone marrow transplant. According to Spadaro, his grandson underwent over 700 blood transfusions over 21 months in the hospital, sometimes receiving platelets three times a day. The family eventually acquired a positive bone marrow match from Germany, ultimately saving the young boy’s life.
“While he was in the hospital, we realized he was using all this blood,” said Spadaro. “By realizing the amount of blood and there was always a shortage of it, we decided to run a blood drive at our local parish. When we put the word out, the response was so tremendous that we had to have another two weeks later.”
Spadaro says the family now tries to host blood drives at least once or twice a year.
“Our neighborhood is so caring and giving,” said Sandy Irrera, a volunteer and contributor at the event. “It’s overwhelming — the help and support we get. It’s not just blood drives. We just so happen to live in a very caring community.”