Holland Family Gives Thanks by Giving Back

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The Pikaart family in Holland, Mich., marked the second anniversary of 8-year-old Ben’s leukemia diagnosis by giving back.

Ben is now a healthy, Lego-loving 3rd grader, thanks to a successful bone marrow transplant. In gratitude for a perfect match in Ben’s big sister, his family hosted a bone marrow registry drive.

With a few simple swabs of the inside of their cheeks, 130 people were recently added to the Be the Match bone marrow donor registry, giving hope to cancer patients awaiting a life-saving transplant.

The registry drive was hosted by Mike and Kris Pikaart, members of Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church, with the help of the Biochemistry Club of Hope College, where Mike is a biochemistry professor.

In November 2011, the Pikaarts’ youngest child was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. By Christmas they knew that standard treatment wasn’t going to achieve remission. Ben would need a bone marrow transplant.

Only 30 percent of patients needing a bone marrow transplant find a match within the family. So when Ben’s siblings, Nick, 19, Karis, 17, and Kate, 13, were tested, the family was thankful to learn that there was a perfect match in Karis. “It was the best possible news,” said Kris.

Ben and Karis, known now to their family as bone marrow buddies, underwent a successful transplant procedure in the summer of 2012. 

If it weren’t for this perfect match, the Pikaarts would have turned to the Be the Match registry, as so many do.

“We organized the drive out of gratitude for Ben’s successful transplant and in honor of the families we have met who are dealing with a childhood cancer diagnosis,” Kris said.

The Pikaarts also raised $3,800 to cover the $25 cost of adding each new person to the registry. Donations received on the day of the drive were enough to cover an additional 30 registrants.

About the Author

Susan Vandenberg is a freelance writer.

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