His noggin, his pep, his cause go on tour
Young cancer patient Pat Pedraja and his famously inked forehead are known worldwide, thanks to the Internet. Now he plans to take his push for bone marrow donors on the road.
By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published December 19, 2006
Give money or aid: Donate at www.drivingfordonors.com or send a check made out to "Driving for Donors" to the Marrow Foundation, 400 Seventh St. NW, Suite 206, Washington, D.C. 20004. Call the Driving for Donors team at 407 460-9241.
Become a marrow donor: Particularly if you are an ethnic minority, give the gift of hope to those in need of a marrow donation, such as Joseph Grimsley of Largo. African-American donors are especially needed. Volunteers must be between 18 and 60 and meet health guidelines. Go to www.marrow.org or call (727) 568-2115.
For some, the holiday season is a time of renewal and recommitment to their dreams.
But for 11-year-old Pat Pedraja of Palm Harbor, this comes naturally.
Even with leukemia and chemotherapy, the savvy sixth-grader with a flair for marketing has launched a quest to sign up bone marrow donors that has struck a chord from coast to coast, continent to continent, worldwide.
At the same time, he has expanded his own local efforts - not only to help himself but also to assist fellow leukemia patient Joseph Grimsley of Largo.
Pat recently put two months of ad space on his bald head up for auction on eBay. All Road Communications of San Diego bid $5,100 to place a temporary tattoo of its Web site, allroadsat.com, on his forehead.
"We're very proud to be a sponsor of what Pat's doing," said Chris Hoar, All Road's marketing director. "He's a very creative and brave young man."
Type "Pat Pedraja" into Google, and you get 21,000 hits, including sites in English, Italian, Serbian, Croatian, Turkish and German. His cause is known from Chile to India.
Pat aims to sign up 2,007 bone marrow donors in 2007, touring 25 cities in a recreational vehicle with his family starting May 15. Sponsors will help with fundraising auctions and donor drives in the cities.
But the price for testing each potential marrow donor is $52. To pay for the testing and travel, Pat and his mother, Claudine Andrews, figure they need about $125,000, plus money to rent an RV - unless someone steps forward with a loaner.
All Road Communications gave Pat a satellite phone so he will have phone contact with medical personnel at all times while traveling.
Pat's head space is up for auction again on eBay next week. After the All Road commitment is completed, he will wear that tattoo for a month. Another eBay-auctioned tattoo will follow that.
"The important thing here is to get other people on the bandwagon," Hoar said.
And business owners aren't the only people who could benefit from sponsoring Pat.
Help for a fellow patient
When Pat read recently that Grimsley, a husband and father of three, needed a bone marrow transplant, he wanted to help.
So Pat and his mother began planning a marrow donor drive for Grimsley at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa for sometime after the holidays and launched a separate drive closer to home.
On a recent warm, windy Saturday, Pat's Woodland Hills neighborhood had a marrow donor drive on Bailey Court.
And because Pat organized the day, it was all about entrepreneurship.
"We have hot dogs. Would you like one?" he said, greeting guests. "Only a dollar."
Palm Harbor Fire Rescue gave out firefighter's hats, Florida Blood Services collected about 18 pints and the National Marrow Donor Program registered 22 potential donors.
Neighbors and relatives sold wreaths and baked goods, Santa posed for photos for a donation, and a raffle offered chances to win donated tax-preparation services from H&R Block or golf for four at the Westin Innisbrook Golf Resort.
Neighbor Carrie Lauhon cut hair for a $20 donation - free if the hair was donated to Locks of Love, the charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. Pat's pediatrician, Janet Black of Crystal Beach, donated much of her long, dark hair to Locks of Love.
As a toddler, Pat came into her office with a hockey stick, Black said, and he knew where she kept plastic balls.
"He wouldn't let me examine him until we did a couple of rounds of hockey," she said.
Ethel Grimsley, Joseph Grimsley's mother, got firefighter's hats for her grandchildren and talked about collaborating with Pat and his mother to find marrow donors.
"That little boy of hers is a jewel, a godsend," she said. "I look at everything that happens to me as a blessing, and this is indeed a blessing."
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at (727) 445-4170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.