People who know Kay Trapp say she's the kind of person who's always there to help, or to offer support or a compliment. Over 17 years, the Turtle Lake Elementary media specialist has touched many lives.
So when Trapp's Shoreview friends learned this winter that she received a diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia, many of the same people wanted to help. Michelle Morse, an administrative paraprofessional at Turtle Lake -- a former student and daughter to family friends of Trapp's -- intended to sign up for the National Marrow Donor Program's national registry.
Instead, Morse and others have organized a donor registry drive, which they hope will help people with leukemia and other blood diseases to find a life-saving stem cell donor. They hope the drive at the school Monday will draw not only alumni and parents, but people in Trapp's church and neighborhood, and others from the broader community.
"We know a lot of people who really want to help," said Emily Trapp, the eldest of Trapp's three children. "People in our community really stepped up to the plate, and here's something we can do to help because there are so many people in need."
The Kay Trapp donor registry drive, and a handful of others around the metro area, are among hundreds of drives taking place nationwide in the weeks surrounding Mother's Day, part of the National Marrow Donor Program's "Thanks Mom" campaign.
Each year, more than 10,000 adults and children are diagnosed with diseases, including some types of leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia, which can be cured only with a bone marrow transplant. Donations from family members work in 30 percent of cases. Overall, only three in 10 patients eventually find a successful match. Among those who seek a donor, success depends on the availability of donors in their ethnic groups.
The Thanks Mom campaign started in 2002 in Milwaukee, when Owen and Linda Wells were looking for a match for their daughter, Kailee, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. After a four-year search, the Wellses found a donor in Kailee's native China. Kailee recently was well enough to visit her donor.
The campaign went national in 2006.
Last year, organizers blew away their 20,000-name goal, signing up 43,000 potential donors. This year, they hope to garner 46,000 names.
Potential donors give a cheek swab to gather their genetic information. For most people who are selected as a match, the donation process is a lot like giving blood plasma; blood is drawn, the marrow-producing cells are isolated and kept, and the rest of the blood is circulated back into their bodies. About 20 percent go through the traditional surgical process.
Trapp's leukemia isn't likely to require a bone marrow transplant. She says she's thankful that her leukemia type often can be cured.
"I have friends who didn't have that outcome," she said.
The first round of chemotherapy appears to be working, she said, but there's more ahead.
During the worst of it, she's wrapped up in prayer shawls, gifts from her sister-in-law and a colleague. A quilt her co-workers made gives her comfort. And the funny cards she's received from students make her smile.
"When you live in a community, work in a community, attend church in a community, teach at a school of almost 1,000 students, you really feel like you know your community," she said. "I'm very fortunate. It's good to be part of a community."
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409