The Thanksgiving Project: Giving thanks for the Sarahs

When people ask me who my role models are, I used to think of people much older than me. But then I met The Sarahs. Ten years my junior, Sarah Zammit and Sarah Paolucci are two University of Guelph students that command a lot of my respect and admiration. Click here to learn a bit more about them. Last week they led an army of over 100 red-shirted volunteers in another incredibly successful Get Swabbed event on campus.

For those of you unfamiliar with Get Swabbed, it’s a OneMatch registration campaign to add more people to the national stem cell and marrow network. It’s a national challenge amongst Colleges and Universities across Canada to get as many new sign ups as possible. This year, thanks to the insane efforts of The Sarahs, U of G blew the roof off with more than 1,500 registrants in just 12 hours.

Earlier in the week I participated in a few flash mobs, organized by Flasharilla, to help promote the event. So much fun. Check out the video below. I’m the creepy old guy with no notebook or backpack, pretending to be a student.

As a recipient of a stem cell transplant back in October 2008, this is obviously a cause close to my heart. Despite having seven siblings, there were no matches in my family. This meant having to go to the broader registries like OneMatch to find a donor. It took seven months before they found me a match and, boy howdy, those were the longest months of my life.

I’ll never forget the day I got the phone call from Dr. Yee to tell me they had found a match. I had just woken up from a nap and stumbled over to the phone to check my voicemail. Standing in my gotchies I listened to Dr. Yee’s message as a swell of emotion filled me up.

Then I danced.

I danced like a mad man. I danced so hard I nearly puked. Seriously. I was on a lot of chemo at the time and had to stop jumping around before the swell of emotion became a swell of vomit. Glorious, joyful vomit.

Me and the Sarahs at U of G's Get Swabbed! event, Nov 4

This is the gift people like The Sarahs give to patients waiting for a match: joy, hope, relief, a gotchie dance party and a shot at getting better. The reality is this: I had the best doctors in the country, I had access to the best drugs and cutting edge medical technology. But none of that mattered without the generousity and kindness of a complete stranger who signed up to be on the stem cell and bone marrow registry.

There are currently more than 900 patients in Canada waiting for a match. Every single person who gets added to the registry increases the chances of those patients finding a donor. If you haven’t already registered, please visit It’s dirt simple. They even mail you a kit, you swab your own cheeks and send it back. Done. If you’re from somewhere other than Canada, do a quick search to find out how you can join in your own country.

So here’s to the spirit of volunteerism and being there for each other. Here’s to the donors and everybody who’s joined up. Here’s to The Sarahs, their hard work, inspiring leadership and giant hearts that defy their short statures. Here’s to all the Get Swabbed volunteers and the amazing students across Canada who made a difference these past couple weeks.

I quite literally owe my life to people like you.

What are you grateful for? Add your items to the Thanksgiving Project—the goal is to have 1,000 items by the end of November. You can also add your items on my Facebook Page and on Twitter, using the #thanksgivingproject hashtag.

Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy. Thanks!

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2 Responses to The Thanksgiving Project: Giving thanks for the Sarahs

  1. A Minimalist says:

    Wonderful project! Confess that have never heard. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Pingback: Oh, the things we do: A call for submissions | Josh Martin Ink

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