Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, or A3M, held a charity concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Saturday, April 18. Korean singers Dong Qn Ha and Jung Lee, both widely known for their soundtracks for Korean dramas and appearances on variety shows, were part of the program.
A3M began as a grassroots movement in 1991 to recruit more Asian Pacific Islander bone marrow donors for the Be the Match Registry in hopes of diversifying and expanding the donor pool. Since then, the organization has recruited over 300,000 potential donors through the hundreds of recruitment drives conducted each year. Of the registered donors, over 400 have been matched with a patient diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, or other life-threatening diseases and have gone on to donate their marrow cells.
Leukemia is among the most common diseases that a marrow transplant is used to treat. The disease causes bone marrow to produce abnormal white blood cells that multiply rapidly and “crowd out” other necessary components of blood, such as red blood cells and platelets.
Of the 43,000 people diagnosed with leukemia each year, only 30% of patients find a matching donor among their relatives; the other 70% must rely on services like Be the Match to come into contact with an unrelated donor. According to A3M, patients are more likely to find a matching bone marrow donor within their racial community, which explains A3M’s initial goal of recruiting more Asian Pacific Islanders for the registry.
The marrow donation process can be difficult and painful. According to Be the Match, the median recovery time for donation is 20 days. This has an impact on the number of donors who sign up. Yet the odds of a donor matching a patient’s Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), which determines whether the donated marrow will be compatible, are one in 20,000. Thus, the registry must be large to be successful.
The concert on Saturday was yet another opportunity to recruit more potential donors. Student volunteers set up booths before the entrances to the theater. Those who were interested in donating their marrow cells were registered in a matter of minutes; they completed a short consent form and their tissue samples, which will be sent to a lab for HLA typing, were collected using mouth swabs.
“The main goal of this organization is to educate potential donors and to increase awareness surrounding the cause. I think approaching well-known Korean singers to perform at the concert was a great way to attract members of the Korean community,” Andrew Kim, an eighth grade student volunteer who attends Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), said in an interview with JSR.
Other student volunteers of the organization agree that the charity concert was a success.
“I really enjoyed working at the booth, especially because so many people were interested in registering with Be the Match. Volunteering at the concert made me realize how many potential donors there can be, if only we spread the message about the organization,” Sophia Kim, a freshman at Hamilton High School.
For Sean Moon, the Korean Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for A3M, the charity concert was not the only successful recruitment drive he has participated in his first year of working with the organization.
“I have set up countless recruitment booths on campuses and at churches with volunteers and other coordinators. I have also begun approaching congregations about registering to be potential donors, and the entire process has been very successful so far,” Moon, who is also a pastor at a local church, said. “All in all, I’m incredibly excited to work alongside dedicated and passionate high school students to further expand the bone marrow registry.”