When she joined the National Bone Marrow Registry, Conway resident Lori Washburn never expected to save the life of a complete stranger. Now, she’ll have the chance to do just that.

Washburn will soon fly to Denver, Colo., to donate bone marrow to a 60-year-old acute leukemia patient she has never met. The transplant will hopefully save the man’s life.

Washburn joined the bone marrow registry after following the story of a baby boy, who was suffering from leukemia, on www.caringbridge.org, a Web site used to keep friends and family members up-to-date on a patient’s status during a serious health event.

Washburn joined the registry after learning of the baby’s death and hearing about the program from the baby’s father. The family’s story left a lasting impression on Washburn.

"I immediately thought of my three kids," Washburn said. "I know if something were to happen with them, I’d be knocking on doors to find a donor."

About four months ago, Washburn was contacted and told she was a perfect match for the 60-year-old patient. After several health screenings and tests, Washburn was cleared to fly to Denver for the procedure.

"I wasn’t hesitant about donating at all," Washburn said. "It’s the least I could do."

Washburn supports signing up for the registry and helped raise awareness for the cause by joining Jeana Moore, a Washington grandmother walking across the United States to promote the National Bone Marrow Registry, as she walked through downtown Conway Thursday morning.

Moore and Washburn were escorted through the city by members of the Conway Firefighters Association IAFF Local 4016.

The Conway Fire Department provided an engine and district chief’s unit to assist with the escort.

According to Damon Reed, IAFF Local 4016 president, Local 4016 provided Moore with a hotel room, as well as transportation to and from her route, while she was in Conway.

"Hearing her story really moved me, and we just wanted to help get the story out," Reed said. "If we can help out and have an effect, it’s worth it. We really appreciate Fire Chief Bart Castleberry giving us his blessing and letting us use the truck during the walk."

Moore began her trek across the U.S. in Seattle, Wash., and will continue her journey until she reaches New York in January.

Moore was inspired to begin the walk to raise awareness after her granddaughter, Jada, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Jada was able to receive a bone marrow donation, which ultimately saved her life, in November 2007. Five months later, Jada returned home in remission. Now completely off any medications, Jada is a healthy three-year-old. According to Moore, Jada recently got to enjoy a simple pleasure many people take for granted - swimming in a lake during the summer.

With her walk across the country, Moore hopes to bring the message and awareness to people nationwide.

"I knew I needed to get out and talk to people face-to-face," Moore said.

Her goal is to have 20,000 people join the National Bone Marrow Registry. Nearly 2,300 have joined after hearing Moore’s story.

Moore said she is working with Reed to set up a registry drive in Conway and hopes to set up many more across the country.

"Even after I’m done walking, I will continue to work and raise awareness for the National Bone Marrow Registry," Moore said.

Moore and Washburn both stressed the importance of signing up and the simple process involved.

"People are always asking me how much everything costs," Washburn said. "That’s the best part. It’s free."

Joining the registry involves providing basic personal information and a filling out a brief health questionnaire. After signing up online for free, members will receive a cheek swab kit by mail. Members must swab the inside of their mouths and return the kit before officially joining the registry.

Those interested in joining or learning more about the National Bone Marrow Registry or Moore’s trip across the country can visit Moore’s Web site www.stepstomarrow.com and click on the Make a Difference link.

(Staff writer Stephanie Fischer can be reached by e-mail at stephanie.fischer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)