A lot has been said about Jewish camping and Year Course in Israel experiences changing lives, and no one is a better example of that than Jared Stein, a college student from Boston, MA.
On the first day of his Jewish camping experience in the summer of 2011, Jared saw several signs and banners announcing the opportunity for camp counselors, older siblings and parents to become part of the Gift of Life, a national organization whose goal is to increase the number of Ashkenenazi Jews in the nation's bone marrow registry. People from similar ethnic backgrounds are the most likely to be matches.
Encouraged by his parents, both of whom had been on donor lists for over 20 years, Jared signed up. Never thinking that he actually would be identified as a match, it was a year to the day when he got the call that would change both his life and the life of a woman diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Many people who sign up for the registry are nervous about getting "the call" and fearful about the process of donating. When he got his call, Jared's heart beat wildly and he thought, "What did I get myself into?" But as Jared soon realized, "It may be a few uncomfortable days for you, but it's a whole life for another."
Jared's donation of peripheral stem cells occurred at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, with his camp directors at his bedside, along with family and friends. The community of friends he made through Young Judaea's Year Course in Israel encouraged and supported Jared, both during the day of the donation as well as through the weeks and months afterwards, with constant texts and phone calls. Speaking with other donors who were also performing this selfless act of kindness was comforting, and Jared was able to return to his normal routine after just a few days.
This meaningful experience inspired him to encourage others to join the registry, and he actively pursued volunteers and friends at the University of Maryland, where he is a sophomore, to host recruitment drives. To date, more than 230 students have added their names to the donor list and received education about the process. Another upcoming drive at UMD is sure to add to that number!
According to Jared, healthy young people make the best donors and can be on that all-important registry for many years. Several of Jared's best friends from Year Course are also now registered. Jared notes, "It's like a needle in a haystack. You have the potential to be someone's needle in a haystack. It might not be the easiest thing, but it's going to be worth it."
Needles in a haystack don't usually have a name. This one does. It's Jared Stein.