Garry Stearns (left), co-chair, and John McNamara, vice-chair, are planning a golf tournament to support bone-marrow and stem-cell transplantation. They are shown here at the eQuinelle golf course, one of the sponsors.

by Ken Mews

North Grenville has a remarkable record for volunteerism. Garry Stearns and John McNamara are two cheerful volunteers with a really high level of commitment. They are lead organizers for the upcoming RCMP Veterans’/Denniston Bone Marrow Golf Classic to be held on Sept 12, at the Hylands Golf Club, in Ottawa. Other organizers from North Grenville include Gary Walkling and Paul Ouellet, both of the RCMP Veterans’ Association.

Garry and John are members of the Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society, Ottawa Chapter. Garry is also Vice-Chair of the Chapter. In addition to planning the major fundraiser of the national Society, Garry and John are trained bone marrow couriers. At short notice they have flown off to pick up bone marrow urgently needed by patients suffering from leukemia or any one of 20 to 30 other diseases, and delivered it within 36 hours. Garry has done eight such missions–to Germany, for example–and John, six.

That takes dedication. Garry uses holiday time from his job as a life insurance agent to do this work, while John is retired from a career in the military, Transport Canada, and the aviation industry. Garry started working with the Society in 2006, when he organized a trans-Canada SmartCar relay. John became involved when he read an article in the Ottawa Citizen, soon after his retirement.

The Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society volunteer couriers annually save the One Match registry and transplant centres the equivalent of one year’s salary of a technician or nurse. Once a patient has been matched to one of the over 28 million potential donors anywhere in the world, the team swings into action.

Another cause the Society supports is the Canadian Blood Services Cord Blood Bank. Stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood are compatible with more patients than bone marrow from matched donors. This results in a 99% success rate for a cord blood transplant, as compared to 60% or 70% for bone marrow from a donor.

The Golf Classic, for the first time held in conjunction with the RCMP Veterans’ Association, offers early-bird prizes for early ticket buyers. The next draw, “Dog Days of Summer,” is coming up soon, on August 15. Other prizes include cruises, a trip for two to Ireland, and a three-day weekend at Montebello in a Class C Mercedes. Tickets cost $150 and the tournament tees off on September 12. Only 152 tickets remain to be sold to reach the organizers’ goal of 288 golfers. Register at dennistonsocietyottawa.org/golf-registration.

Bruce Denniston, after whom the Society is named, was an RCMP constable, serving in the Powell River, B.C., detachment, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1987. His fellow-officers and members of the community worked together to find a matching bone marrow donor for him. (Hence the connection to the Mounties.) One was found, but not in time to save him. In his memory, the Society was expanded across the country, raising awareness and recruiting donors. The registry now includes almost 400 thousand potential donors and is part of a worldwide network through which patients have access to almost 700 thousand cord blood units.

North Grenville should be proud to have two such dedicated and active volunteers.

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