Jeanne Sager | Democrat
REGINA WAGNER, SECOND from right, got support from former students like John and Jaime Rusin, left, and former colleagues like BOCES teacher Candy Gatta, far right..
Overwhelming response to drive
By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE May 20, 2008 Amazing. Spectacular. Unbelievable.
There was no one word that could aptly describe the more than 600 donors, more than $23,800 raised at Thursday night’s bone marrow drives “for Regina.”
Even the donor recruitment specialists at DKMS Americas an organization charged with raising the numbers of Americans on the bone marrow registry and funding the fight against leukemia and other blood-borne cancers were blown away.
“Today was amazing,” Michele Poliskin said as the drive neared closing time at its second location, St. George’s Roman Catholic Church in Jeffersonville.
With around 270 donors and $6,150 raised at the drive at the Liberty High School earlier in the day, Poliskin was carefully adding up the figures for Jeffersonville.
Through it all, she couldn’t stop smiling.
“Clearly, the entire community cares about Regina,” Poliskin said. “You walk in and you feel the love… and everyone’s sending it her way.”
Regina Wagner could feel it.
The retired educator’s battle with myelodysplasia spurred a group of friends calling themselves “Team Wagner” to contact DKMS, to put together Thursday’s drives, to find a match for Regina.
“It has been an unbelievable walk down memory lane,” Wagner said late Thursday evening.
After spending 30 years in education as a teacher, guidance counselor and even a member of the Sullivan West Board of Education Wagner saw students for the first time in more than 20 years.
They drove from Orange County or Youngsville to swish two cotton swabs around their mouth and slip them in an envelope to be sent down to DKMS headquarters.
A childhood friend of Wagner’s showed up in Liberty. She’d aged out of eligibility, but she gave a donation.
That was the story for most who couldn’t offer up a DNA sample to join the registry, said volunteer Linda Argentati.
“They immediately gave money,” she said. “People were so willing to give of themselves.”
After meeting once a week for two straight months, Team Wagner was nervous in the hours leading up to Thursday’s drives.
“It’s like when you throw a party and you wonder who’s going to come,” Argentati said. “Everybody came.”
And everybody gave.
“People have given to the point where it will stress their family’s weekly allowance,” said Lisa Layman, the chief organizer behind Team Wagner.
They did it for Regina.
“It always makes a difference when you have a personal story,” said Alina Suprunova of DKMS.
“It makes people understand this isn’t something that happens to other people. It happens to one of us.”
It’s a story Cathleen Miret knows all too well.
She lost husband Len to cancer last year.
“The community was tremendous in his fight, so I can only give back,” she said, as she and sister Meaghan Gorr filled out the paperwork necessary to join the registry.
Jaime Rusin and husband John drove from Rock Hill to Jeffersonville to have their mouths swabbed and to wrap their arms around “Mrs. Wagner,” their old guidance counselor at Liberty High.
“She’s a wonderful woman,” Jaime said. “We wanted to do anything we could to help.”
That, for Wagner, a mother of two, a wife, an educator, means more than anything short of finding a donor.
“Today, people have told me a lot about what I meant in their life,” she said. “Sometimes, when you live in a community that’s been divided by issues, and you’ve been on the front lines of that, it’s so incredible to see people united for something.”
They were united for her.
Donations are still being accepted, and people who want to join the registry can contact DKMS to obtain a do-at-home kit.
For information, visit www.giftforregina.com or www.dkmsamericas.org or call Alina Suprunova at 212-209-6703.