On Sunday, January 14, Gift of Life held its ninth annual Steps for Life 5k Run & Walk of South Florida, drawing over 500 participants to the event held at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, Fla. For a father from Manhattan and a recent college graduate from Land O’Lakes, this would be one of the most emotional days of their lives.
In November 2015, Manhattan resident Julio Rivera suddenly found himself in a fight for his life. A routine dental procedure that would not stop bleeding sent him to the emergency room, but the result was a shock to Julio and his family: he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He needed a stem cell transplant to have any hope of survival, and fortunately he found one in the Gift of Life registry. Now, he was ready to meet the young man whose generous donation had saved his life.
Steps for Life Chairs Dana Aberman, Donna Krasner and Wendy Schulman – who organized the first race nine years ago – told Julio about his Gift of Life donor, Ryan Corning. The 23-year-old recently graduated in applied mathematics from Elon University. He joined the registry in 2014 while serving as a camp counselor at URJ Camp Coleman in Georgia. Ryan was called as Julio’s match the very day he returned from a month of overseas study in Vietnam, and he was happy to donate.
When he came forward to greet Julio, the two hugged as if they had always known each other, and quickly learned that they are both huge baseball fans. “I am so happy I could help you,” said Ryan. “I would donate a million times over if I could.”
“I have no words to express how Ryan gave me not just a chance at life, but a chance to do more with my family and my children,” said Rivera.
Gift of Life’s founder and CEO Jay Feinberg along with Julio and Ryan, led off the 5k Run & Walk. Runners from all over South Florida participated. Walkers followed the runners out of the starting line and the beautiful, clear morning made the event enjoyable for everyone.
Every person has the power to save a life
As the event wrapped up, Bill reminded the crowd that, “It only takes one person to save a life, and you have the power within you to be someone’s cure.”
Patients in need who do not have a match in their family have the best chance of finding a donor through the international bone marrow registry. To become a volunteer donor, please visit www.giftoflife.org/register. While not every donor is called as a match, you may someday be given the miraculous chance to save another person’s life.