VILONIA — Residents are organizing a community bone marrow donor drive for Leslie Harris, a leukemia patient.
"I don’t know Leslie," firefighter Eric Duvall told a small audience at the Vilonia Fire Department. "She lives in Little Rock. I have heard her story and I have spoken to her mother, Rhonda. I know she needs our help."
The drive will begin at 8 a.m. Friday, June 8, at the fire department. Representatives of the Be The Match Registry will perform "simple cheek swabs," Duvall said.
"It seems to me it is just a matter of getting people out and getting people swabbed," he said. "There is someone walking around out there that has exactly what this young woman needs to save her life. We need to adopt her and make her ours for the day. It only takes one match. Let’s make it happen here in Vilonia."
Harris, 29, was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 21, 2011, just hours before giving birth to her son, Samuel Ayden. Harris’ mother, Rhonda Harris, said her daughter is "very ill," with up to 90 percent of her bone marrow cancerous. She has undergone chemotherapy treatments for months.
Duvall showed a video featuring Rhonda Harris addressing her daughter’s plight. People attending the organizational rally, including pastors, police officers, business owners and other firefighters, volunteered to help with the drive. They suggested making the drive "a community effort."
Evening activities are planned for the day-long drive, including music and children’s games.
"Our ultimate goal is to assist the Be The Match Registry find the one person in 17,000 who could save the woman’s life," Duvall said. "It’s all about the numbers."
Rhonda Harris said her grandson is healthy and that they both plan to be in Vilonia on the day of the drive. Leslie Harris’ appearance obviously depends on her health, her mother said.
Other communities have held similar drives for Harris. Although no match has been found for her, Duvall said the drives have produced matches for five other patients needing a bone marrow transfusion.
For more information, call Duvall at 514-0162 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on the drive also is available at Vilonia City Hall.