Ruthy Sher may only be a junior at Columbia University, but she is already a veteran of organizing lifesaving stem cell and bone marrow drives.
The West Long Branch resident’s latest drive for the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation was held July 19 at her synagogue, Congregation Brothers of Israel in Elberon, after evening services on Tisha B’Av.
“I’ve been volunteering with them for over a year,” said Sher, a neuroscience major who would like to enter the medical field.
Her interest in the foundation, the only North American donor registry dedicated to recruitment within the Jewish community, began last summer when a friend asked her to assist him in organizing a drive. Sher has since organized several such drives at Columbia.
“Since then I’ve been running drives at school. I help out at drives whenever there is one in New Jersey.”
For the Brothers of Israel drive, she sent out fliers with photos of three people, including a child, suffering from leukemia or another blood disorder.
“I also spoke at services one day in shul,” said Sher, who had about 30 people swabbed at the Brothers of Israel drive, which she said was a good turnout. It did, however, differ from typical drives in one way.
“Usually people come over a course of four hours or so and here everybody just came all at once,” she said. “It’s so important and easy because now all you have to do is have your mouth swabbed and you can save someone’s life.
“The synagogue members were actually very excited and I got a very nice reaction. Lots of people asked me questions and others donated money.”
There are now approximately 30,000 such people in need of a match in order to survive. The best chance of finding such a compatible donor after immediate family members is within one’s own ethnic group. Gift of Life has successfully facilitated more than 2,100 matches.
In fact, Sher herself is somewhat different than many drive organizers.
“Many have been either recipients or donors and I’ve actually never been either,” she acknowledged. “But if I’m not helping by being a donor I figure I’m still helping by organizing these drives.”
For more information on the foundation, visit www.giftoflife.org.