Patrick's drive to save lives
Pat Pedraja is 11 years old. He has leukemia, and he has a goal: 2,007 new donors on the National Marrow Donor Program Registry in 2007 . It'll take $125,000 , an RV, 2 months and 25 cities . Despite chemotherapy, he's ready to go Driving for Donors.
By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published November 22, 2006
PALM HARBOR - Leukemia and three days of chemotherapy a week might immobilize many, let alone a child.
But 11-year-old Pat Pedraja is surging ahead with plans for a tour of 25 cities seeking new bone marrow donors who can provide life-saving matches.
He is asking for donations to fund tissue testing and other expenses.
He is even soliciting bids on the online auction site eBay to let people put an advertising spot on his bald head.
And his ideas don't stop there.
"Patrick has a very entrepreneurial spirit," said his mother, Claudine Andrews.
She said he was watching a show that featured celebrity entrepreneur Farrah Gray. The program showed Gray's sister, Greek Gray, and said she needed a bone marrow donor match. The Gray family is African-American, and the National Marrow Donor Program Registry especially needs minority donors.
Pat is half Hispanic, so he worries that he might someday need a marrow donor and find no match available.
A few weeks later, Greek Gray died of leukemia, and Pat took it hard. He told his mother he wanted to do something to help.
His first thought was a bone marrow donor drive. Then he said, "Let's get an RV and drive around the country, and make it a national drive."
So as Pat got his treatments, the two made plans for the First National Law Enforcement Marrow Donor Drive. Law enforcement departments in 25 cities agreed to help them with drives in their cities. Pat is calling the project "Driving for Donors." His goal: to enlist 2,007 new bone marrow donors in 2007.
"Patrick always tends to dream big," Andrews said.
Driving for Donors will need funds: $104,000 to pay for tissue testing the 2,007 donors, and more for publicity costs and travel. They figure about $125,000 in all.
To jump-start the project, they decided to auction off advertising space on Pat's bald head. He is offering to wear a temporary tattoo of a company's logo whenever he goes out for two months, including public appearances.
As of Saturday morning, no bidders had come forward, but interested bidders can go to the eBay item through a link found at www.drivingfordonors.com. Bidding closes Thanksgiving afternoon.
They also need someone to donate a large recreational vehicle for three months.
Some help has been offered. The Marrow Foundation has set up an account for Driving for Donors and will contribute some matching funds. The International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa is donating graphic, photography, video and other services. And Greek Gray's mother, Paula Gray, called Pat on Nov. 7 and told him that the Greek Gray Foundation will work with him.
Pat started a year of intense chemotherapy at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa after he was diagnosed with leukemia in March. Unable to attend Carwise Middle School, he studies at his Palm Harbor home.
Andrews said doctors have told her that, with treatment, her son's prognosis is good. In less than four months, he will start on a maintenance program with chemotherapy required much less often.
Then, on May 15, Pat, his mother; stepfather, Keith Albrizzi; sister, Jocelyn Albrizzi; and brothers, Nathan and Tucker Albrizzi, plan to start driving for donors. They will travel to cities as far from one another as Boston, Seattle, San Diego and Miami.
"All that would matter to me is if we get one match for a person," Pat said as he went through a session of chemotherapy.
"Then the whole Driving for Donors would be a success."Times staff photographer Kathleen Flynn contributed to this report. Theresa Blackwell can be reached at 727 445-4170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.drivingfordonors.com or call the Driving for Donors team at (407) 460-9241.
[Last modified November 21, 2006, 22:45:16]
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