For the sixth year in a row, the Southwest Florida community will be coming together to make a difference in the life of one local teenager and the lives of several others around the nation just like him, during the Lani Kai's annual Kenny Conidaris Blood and Bone Marrow Drive, Saturday, July 28, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kenny Conidaris, now an 18-year old Fort Myers native, is suffering from a rare blood disease called Severe Aplastic Anemia.
Since his diagnosis more than six years ago, his grandfather, Bob Conidaris, owner of the Lani Kai Island Resort, along with Lee Memorial Blood Centers, have organized a massive, annual blood and bone marrow drive, in the hopes of finding a bone marrow match for Kenny and other young children like him, to help relieve them of this rare condition.
Kenny and his dog, Koal. Photo courtesy KATHY CONIDARIS.
"Kenny is doing good for right now. Six years ago, since we couldn't find a match for his bone marrow, he was given a treatment that had a 30 percent chance he'd come down with a secondary disease. His doctor recently said his blood is possibly showing signs of this secondary disease, which can bring out the Aplastic Anemia again. So, we're still searching for a marrow match, and the disease still lingers," said Kathy Conidaris, Kenny's mother.
His grandfather, Bob Conidaris, as well as the rest of the Conidaris family, have organized the blood and bone marrow drive at the Lani Kai on Kenny's 19th birthday. The event will feature live entertainment and plenty of free food and refreshments, along with free transportation and hundreds of giveaways and door prizes for all of the blood donors and bone marrow registrants that day, all donated by local businesses.
"All donors will receive a T-shirt and backpack, as well as the chance to win several great prizes during our raffles that day," Kathy said.
Some of the items up for grabs include gift cards to numerous restaurants around town, as well as gas cards and grocery store gift cards, and much, much more. And, you need not be present to win. Simply write all of your contact information on your ticket(s), so you can be contacted, should you win.
"And, the first 50 donors in the door that day will receive weekend passes to the Redneck Yacht Club, a $40 value," Kathy eagerly stated. "The Redneck Yacht Club is one of our big sponsors, along with Budweiser, and they will have big buggies set up at the blood and bone marrow drive perfect for photo opportunities. It'll be lots of fun. We'll have big beach buggies, games on the beach, giveaways, Budweiser on-hand with great prizes, it's fun for everyone. We're giving away lots of great items, spreading the love, with more prizes to touch more people."
Throughout the event, there will be live music and plenty of other fun, all taking place on the lower level covered patio area, near the pool. Sponsors of the event include Budweiser, the Redneck Yacht Club, Zoom Tan, Sun and Fun Lagoon, and the Hyatt Regency Spa at Coconut Point.
Those donating blood can do so right there on one of the two Lee Memorial Blood Center buses. And, those joining the list of bone marrow registrars, sign-ups will take place near the pool.
For those of you who haven't yet become a bone marrow registrar, it's very simple. You fill out a form and have the inside of your mouth swabbed. That's it. From there, you enter the national bone marrow registry, which has more than 10 million potential donors.
If you, your friends or family aren't a match for Kenny, perhaps you're a match for someone else that desperately needs it.
"We're still looking for that match for Kenny," Kathy said. "But, personally, we know three people just that we know who have been called that matched someone else. It's such a great feeling knowing you're saving someone's life! Come down and register Saturday."
Together, Lee Memorial Blood Centers and the Conidaris family hope to raise a minimum of 150 units of blood and register more than 150 people for the National Bone Marrow registry.
"This goal is only achievable with the support and participation of the local community," Kathy said. "In our first year, the drive broke the state record in number of bone marrow registrars in one day."
Thousands of children and adults from around the world suffering from the many different types of blood disorders and cancers are in need of bone marrow transfers. Many rely on blood donations for their survival, while living in the hope that they will find a perfect match through the Bone Marrow Registry.
"It is a severe disease and one that so many children and adults live with. It is imperative that we do our very best, not just for Kenny, but for the thousands of kids and adults out there in need of a transplant." Kathy said.
Severe Aplastic Anemia is a disease of the bone marrow, where bone marrow stops producing enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to support the body. Patients are at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding. In most cases, doctors do not know the cause. The only treatment for the disease, and to manage it long-term, is a bone marrow transplant.
For more information about this disease or to read about Kenny's struggle, visit www.CaringBridge.org/visit/kennyconidaris11 or APlastic.org.