VERONA (WKOW)-- Every year thousands of cancer patients join the bone marrow donation list hoping someone out there will be a positive match. 12-year-old Verona middle schooler Ilya Webster is one of them. In early December she was diagnosed with high risk Leukemia.
"She's creative, giving, selfless, she's the most beautiful thing I've ever had a chance to become connected to," Ilya's father Ron Webster says.
Family members say Ilya's love of animals and dream of becoming a veterinarian are what keeps her motivated each day. Her many goals and ambitions are what keeps her spirits high during the ongoing process of fighting her condition.
"Long term she's already said she wants to become a vet. That's never changed. She wants to have a house and a small farm because there are a number of animals on her list that she wants to have," Webster says.
Ilya has already undergone two rounds of chemotherapy with a third round coming in just a few weeks. Her doctors feel that her best chance to beat the cancer is to get a bone marrow transplant. So family members got to work and started spreading the word throughout the community.
"The community just wanted to know what they could do. They were asking what can we do to help? What can we do to donate?" Ilya's aunt April Lumpkins says.
In just two short weeks volunteers set up a bone marrow donation drive at Ilya's middle school in Verona and the response was overwhelming.
The process itself takes less than five minutes. Potential donors fill out some paperwork and then take four cotton swabs to collect samples from each corner of their mouth.
"It's pretty quick and painless," volunteer Mike Lamontagne says. "There are a lot of misconceptions about what is all involved in the test and procedure."
Organizers say at the end of the drive 236 potential donors registered and took the test. As more potential donors join the list, the odds exponentially increase that someone will be a close enough match to donate their marrow to Ilya.
"Five minutes of your time really can do something for somebody down the road. Who knows, you might get that call one day or you might be the one in need, hoping somebody took five minutes for you," Webster says.
Saturday's donation drive also featured a silent auction and raffle to raise money for future drives and additional test kits. Anyone who is interested in donating blood marrow should visit http://bethematch.org/Support-the-Cause/Donate-bone-marrow/Join-the-marrow-registry/Join-now/
The organization that hosted Saturday's drive, Be The Match, offers testing kits that can be sent in through the mail. For more information visit their website or call 1(800) MARROW-2 .
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