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Hundreds Turn Out for Norwalk Marrow Drive

Isabelle Grason could feel the love Sunday at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, where hundreds of people were working to help Johan Hernandez’s 7-year-old son Sebastian. “It’s the most beautiful day,” said Grason. “It’s made me believe Christmas is real. The community has really come together.”

Sebastian has leukemia. He needs a bone marrow transplant, and Grason was one of the people who organized a bone marrow registration drive, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the church’s gymnasium. Potential donors swabbed their own cheeks to see if they were a match for Sebastian or anyone else registered with DKMS , the world's largest bone marrow donor center. Monetary donations were also accepted to help offset the $65 cost of testing the samples.

By 2 p.m., more than 200 people had come in to put themselves on the donor list, according to Ellen Miller, who was volunteering along with her three children. “It’s awesome,” she said, adding that many members of the Norwalk Fire Department had come by in the morning to get tested.

Sergio Garcia knows Sebastian’s father from work, and came in to offer his DNA. “As soon as I read about this kid, it broke my heart,” he said.

“It’s amazing, the community response,” said Sebastian’s father. He credited Pat Postigliane, director of religious education, for making the drive possible. “This is happening 80 percent because of her,” he said.

“This is a huge success,” said Postigliane. She credited Maria Sawicki, who knew many people in the Hispanic community because she had been bringing them to the church for religious education." Not long afterwards, teachers from the church’s preschool rang their bells, and Garson stood in the middle of the room, cheering. They had reached 300 donations.

“When was the last time you saw so many people come together?” asked Alicia Brandefellner. “Seriously, it’s the week before Christmas.  People have taken the time today, out of their busy, hectic holiday schedule, to come out and do this. I think it’s fantastic. Not only for Sebastian,  but for anybody that’s going to need it. There’s a potential match here.”

Anyone interested in becoming a donor can register to be tested by going to the DKMS web site.

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