(Minneapolis, MN) — May 08, 2023 — Be The Match Foundation® hosted its annual New York Gala on Thursday, May 4 to raise critical funding that supports patient assistance grants, research to improve transplant outcomes and efforts to diversify the Be The Match Registry®. In 2022, Be The Match Foundation provided $6.1 million in grants to 2,320 patients and their families in need of financial assistance.
The event, held at the Cipriani on Broadway, featured advocates for the Be The Match mission who celebrated the impact of the 7,054 transplants and cell therapies facilitated in 2022 for patients battling blood cancers and blood disorders—representing the most transplants ever facilitated by the organization in a single year. The event’s presenting sponsor, Publicis Groupe, continued its long-standing support of Be The Match. Champions of the cause were also honored through distinguished awards.
The Be The Match INSPIRE Award was created to celebrate individuals, organizations or groups who are making a multi-faceted impact across the organization to save more lives. Through the magnification of their stories and connections, awardees help move the Be The Match mission forward in ways the organization could not do alone. New York Times Bestselling Author Suleika Jaouad was awarded the inaugural Be The Match INSPIRE Award because of her vulnerability, honesty and eloquence in sharing her story as a cancer patient and two-time transplant recipient. Her art and advocacy have comforted people across the country and the world by creating light and connection for those going through very dark and difficult times—including the thousands of patients Be The Match serves every single year.
“I’m alive today because of a community like this one that cares – and acts on its caring,” said Suleika Jaouad. “I’m so moved to be winning this award and grateful to Be the Match for guiding so many of us through the kingdom of the sick.”
Through her advocacy and creative expression, Suleika and her body of work have increased brand awareness for Be The Match and the life-saving potential of a blood stem cell transplant. Using her platforms, Suleika has inspired registry recruitment and financial support in her honor, helping create possibilities for patients that otherwise may not exist.
“Be The Match is grateful for Suleika’s commitment to being a voice for individuals walking through cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Joy King, Chief Advancement Officer of Be The Match and Executive Director of the Be The Match Foundation. “We know her support has helped countless individuals find hope during their journeys – and we recognize her efforts to shine a light on the transplant experience will create greater understanding and more support for patients in the future.”
Be The Match also awarded a Corporate Leadership Award to Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has been an impactful life-saving partner of Be The Match since 2014. The organization has contributed more than $220,000 through multiple Amazon subsidiaries and philanthropic initiatives, added more than 650 registry members and counting through employee-hosted drives at various Amazon facilities and helped raise awareness of Be The Match’s lifesaving mission at its AWS re:Invent Conference. In addition to the important role that AWS technology plays in the work Be The Match does every day, they’ve also supported the organization’s mission through the AWS Imagine Grant, which focuses on accelerating data transformation to better inform treatment decisions for patients.
“At AWS, we are inspired by Be The Match’s commitment to innovation to advance mission impact,” said Allyson Fryhoff, Managing Director of AWS Nonprofit and Nonprofit Health. “We look forward to continuing our work with this amazing organization as they fight to save lives through marrow or stem cell transplants.”
The culminating highlight of the evening included an emotional reunion between transplant recipient Debbie Giroux, 68, of North Carolina, and her blood stem cell donor, Ryan Keegan, 29, a New Jersey resident who served alongside his family as Honorary Chairs for the event. The Keegan family has fundraised more than $170,000 to support Be The Match and honor the family patriarch John Keegan’s battle with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2019. All three of his sons joined the Be The Match Registry to help someone like their father.
John Keegan did not have a matching donor on the national registry and received a haplo-identical transplant (or half-matched transplant) from one of his sons, John Keegan III, in 2019. He passed away in 2021, but not before seeing two grandchildren born and attending his son Ryan’s wedding. Ryan was called to donate to Giroux in 2020 and felt honored to donate his stem cells in the same hospital where his father had received his transplant.
“I was so grateful for the opportunity to give a second chance to Debbie,” said Keegan, an ambassador for Be The Match Foundation in NYC. “My entire family and I are committed to keeping my father’s name and memory alive by giving back in a very tangible way – through fundraising, advocacy, and if needed, a blood stem cell donation.”
About Be The Match Foundation®:
Be The Match® is a global leader working every day to save lives through cellular therapy. For people with life-threatening blood cancers—like leukemia and lymphoma—or other blood disorders like sickle cell, a cure exists. Be The Match connects patients with a matching donor for a life-saving blood stem cell transplant. Be The Match Foundation® raises funds to advance the Be The Match mission. With the public’s philanthropic efforts, the foundation is able to add more potential life-saving blood stem cell donors to the Be The Match Registry®; provide financial assistance to patients and families to overcome financial barriers before, during and after transplant; and fund groundbreaking cellular therapy research.