Non-profits hold bone marrow donor drive to help ill toddler

Non-profits hold bone marrow donor drive to help ill toddler

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Non-profit organizations Mason’s Toy Box and Be The Match have teamed to compile a list of possible bone marrow donors to help an ill 2-year-old suffering from a rare form of Leukemia.

The drive took place on Thursday afternoon in Short Pump.

Ihanu Merrill suffers from Myelomonocytic Leukemia, a very rare and serious form of the disease. While he is a fan of things like Toy Story and Paw Patrol, much of his time is spent in testing and chemo.

2yo Richmond boy suffering rare form of Leukemia
2yo Richmond boy suffering rare form of Leukemia (Source: kelley kassay)

It’s certainly been rough for Ihanu’s mother, Isla Moore.

Moore originally approached nonprofit Mason’s Toy Box for a jungle gym for her son. Kelley Kassay, the organization’s founder, eventually found out that Ihanu didn’t have a match and decided to help find a donor.

“As a former cancer mother, I can tell you it’s just a whirlwind of emotions, there’s a lot of physical, emotional and financial stress in these types of situations,” Kassay said.

Mason’s Toy Box quickly teamed with non-profit ‘Be The Match’ to then help find Ihanu a bone marrow match.

“The only known cure is a bone marrow transplant, and finding that match on the registry is critical,” said Dan Gariepy, with Be The Match. He’d been following Ihanu’s story on social media.

The process is at the drive is simple: you simply register and get a saliva sample taken to join a list of possible donors - taking about 10 minutes total. A big effort, including Thursday’s drive, has been made for more people of color to register.

One of the challenges in finding a match for Ihanu is the fact that he comes from a mixed-race background.

“It’s really hard to find matches for people of color, especially people who are mixed race, or multi-racial,” Dan Gariepy said.

Organizers are hoping that the sign-ups not only benefit the two-year-old but other non-white patients on the list.

Gariepy adds that the sacrifice is worth the reward.

“This little guy we’re trying to help out today, he’s been through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He’s basically in lockdown in a hospital right now. The donors that donate their life-saving cells really have a pretty small journey to donate."

For those interested in registering for the donor list, you can text MASONSTOYBOX to phone number 61474, or more information can be found on Mason’s Toy Box’s Website here.

Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.