JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Claudia Raffo has vivid memories of her grandmother, Harriet "Hattie" Holmes Raffo. She made gingerbread houses with her every Christmas. The kitchen counter would be crowded with flour, aluminum foil and an array of sugary adornments. Memories so sweet now through the soft focus of memory.
Claudia is now an Arkansas State University junior who created "Hattie's Match," a community service project, to honor her grandmother's memory.
After surviving breast cancer in 1986 and Hodgkins lymphoma in 1996, Hattie developed leukemia in 2006 and needed a bone marrow transplant. Due to her treatments from radiation and chemotherapy, her blood cells were extremely malformed. No family member or friend was a match—and no match was found in the National Cord Blood Registry then.
At the time, cord blood transplants were not commonly performed. Doctors found the closest cord match from two cords donated in St. Louis. "Her cord blood transplant extended her life, and her time with my family and me," Claudia said.
The Cord Blood Bank of Arkansas will benefit from this year's Turkey Trot taking place at the Nettleton Fitness Center on the Nettleton High School campus on Saturday, November 19. Registration time is 8:30 a.m. The walk begins at 9 a.m. Walkers pay a $5 fee to participate.
"Every year, Nettleton puts on this event," Claudia explained. "I'm so excited that this year, they are donating the proceeds to The Cord Blood Bank of Arkansas.
Hattie's Match promotes education about cord blood donation. Umbilical cords can only be donated from healthy births.
"The process is easy and non-invasive," Claudia said. "Cord blood is rich in stem cells that are precursors to blood cells."
Cord blood has been proven to treat over 80 cancer and blood/immune disorders. Clinical trials are now studying cord blood's effect treating heart disease, stroke and spinal cord damage with cord blood tissue.
"Being considered "human waste," the umbilical cord is often destroyed after birth unless the mother indicates she wants it saved or donated," Claudia said. "Donation is free to public cord banks, which stores cord blood for the benefit of the general public."
Claudia, currently serving as Miss White River, promotes Hattie's Match as her platform. Claudia is the daughter of Tommy and Paula Raffo. Tommy Raffo is the head coach of the Red Wolves baseball team.
"Through this, I hope to make becoming a bone marrow donor as common as donating blood, as well as, encouraging expectant mothers in Arkansas to donate their child's umbilical cord after a healthy live birth," said Claudia. "Today, cord blood stem cells are used in treating over 80 kinds of cancer and blood disorders."
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