Pick a sunflower for the sick

If bees go, we go - Image by © Stuart Westmorland/CORBIS

Sunflower Day is less than two months away, and awareness is starting to flare.

The Executive Mayor, Cllr Lindiwe Ntshalintshali received a sunflower at a housing company on Monday, July 17. This is to raise awareness for Sunflower Day on September 15.

The Sunflower Fund is a non-profit organisation dedicated to creating awareness, educating the public and facilitating the registration process for people to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).
National Bandana Day has a brand new national campaign,

Sunflower Day. As in the past, it will run from August to the end of September, with the highlight on Sunflower Day. The iconic bandana has also undergone a facelift. Along with the longstanding partner and sponsor, Pick n Pay, an extensive market research that was undertaken at the end of 2015, proved that it was time to ring in the changes. Last year the Sunflower Fund unveiled their new commemorative product known as the Tope, the Tube of Hope. An updated version of the bandana, reflecting the renewed enthusiasm and excitement at the Fund.

With its unique design and selection of six beautiful colours, the Tope is an affordable product with practical functionality for the entire family and can be worn as a headband, mask, scarf, cap or arm band.
Please support the campaign and buy a tope which will assist the sunflower fund to recruit and register potential stem cell donors to join the SABMR.

Increasing the number of donors listed on the national database offers hope to hundreds of South Africans with blood diseases such as leukaemia who have reached the point where their only chance of survival is a stem cell transplant. A larger registry significantly improves patients’ prospects of finding matching stem cell donors in order to undergo life-saving stem cell transplants.

Education, awareness and the recruitment and testing of donors are inextricably linked; the one activity cannot happen in isolation of the other. They are an integral part of every project TSF embarks on and these activities include speaking about the role of the sunflower fund and the need to build the registry. The donor/patient relationship and the process of a stem cell transplant and dispelling the myths surrounding stem cell donation process. In order to continue its valuable work, the sunflower fund relies solely on financial assistance from its dedicated funders – consisting of individuals, companies and organisations.

It takes just two test tubes of blood to become registered as a stem cell donor, but it is the tissue typing of each sample at the required molecular (DNA) level currently costs the sunflower fund R2 000 per test. Donors are asked to make a voluntary contribution to this expense, but most of these costs are covered by the sunflower fund’s fundraising efforts.

Once the blood samples have been analysed, the individuals’ genetic information is then stored on the SABMR’s searchable database until the prospective donor turns 60 years old, which is the mandatory retirement age.

The Sunflower Fund aims to-

Promote public awareness of leukaemia and other chronic blood disorders through national education and awareness campaigns and events.

Recruit blood stem cell donors for the South African Bone Marrow Registry.
Increase the number of donors on the South African Bone Marrow Registry to 400,000 donors, representative of the ethnic diversity in the country.

Fund raise and cover the costs of the blood tests for tissue-typing blood samples provided by donors, currently @ R2500 per recruited donor.

After approval by our independent clinician panel, fund raise to cover the costs of donor searches on the Registry being processed for indigent patients who are unable to afford the costs.

The origin of the sunflower fund:

The formation of the sunflower fund in 1999 in support of the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) was inspired by the heroic struggle against leukaemia of two brave young men, Darren Serebro (1997) and Chris Corlett (2000). It was started by a group of concerned parents whose children had contracted leukaemia, and sadly, in some cases had lost their battle against it.

These young men’s fortitude and willingness to share even the darkest moments of their short lives awakened a flood of public support, which resulted in the birth of the friends of the SABMR.

The original ‘Sunflowers of Hope’ painting was completed by 17-year-old Chris Corlett while he was being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. This was founder patron Tina Botha’s main inspiration for the name change to The Sunflower Fund. Tina Botha’s commitment to building the SABMR meant that she turned her loss into something powerful and positive. She held the role of Chief Executive Officer of the sunflower fund for 13 years and made the transition to founder patron in 2013. Tina’s daughter, Tarryn Corlett, assumed the role of CEO until August 2015.
Alana James was appointed CEO of the sunflower fund in September 2015. She has a wealth of experience from a career spanning over 14 years in the corporate and NGO sectors across South Africa and Africa.

Alana ran her own business for the past four years as a Strategy Consultant and currently is currently Non-Executive Director on the board of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Deputy Chair of Northlink FET College Council.
Alana’s primary aim is to continue to grow the strength of the sunflower fund brand and to develop the understanding of all South Africans regarding the organisation’s cause to grow the number of people on the database of the SABMR through the recruitment of new donors and providing access to tissue type testing.

The commuity can help in more than one way, and here is how:

You have the power to help- by registering to be a donor, volunteering, speaking out and donating. The work we do is fuelled by your support.

Every year thousands of South Africans of all ages and races are diagnosed with diseases such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia or some rare genetic disorders. At times their only hope of survival is a blood stem cell transplant from a donor who shares the same tissue type. Without this transplant it would mean certain death. It all depends on the selflessness of ordinary people like you. You could be the match for someone with leukaemia or other life threatening blood disorders.

Every healthy person between 18 and 45 can be a donor. Although family members, particularly brothers and sisters are generally most suitable, only a small percentage of patients have a compatible sibling match. About 75 % will have to search for an unrelated matched donor, and this is why we need you.
If you are not able to be a donor, please support the sunflower fund’s work in one of the following ways:
Make an online cash donation

Become a monthly funder of our work, this may be an amount of your choice
Host a fundraising event on behalf of the sunflower fund
SMS ‘Sunflower’ to 40555 and donate R20 to The Sunflower Fund
Donate with your SmartShopper and MySchool cards (link to websites)
Volunteer to assist with our regular fundraising events and donor drives

Support our campaigns and events
Consider leaving a bequest to the sunflower fund in your will
Assist the Fund on social media. By simply ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ a post on Facebook or Twitter can be enormously beneficial and this broadens the reach to potential donors, funders and collaborations.

There are many ways that individuals and organisations can assist the various branches of the sunflower fund, be it product and/or service.

Platelet donation:

Apheresis or platelet donation is a process of collecting only one component of the donor’s blood.
A machine called a cell separator spins the donor’s blood to separate it in to various components, including red blood cells, plasma and platelets. The machine collects the platelets while returning the remaining components back to the donor.
When do we need platelets?
The demand for platelets is ongoing. However, the need becomes more acute around long weekends and holidays seasons.
The limited shelf life of platelets is five days together with a need for more donors, places extreme pressure on the platelets available to help patients.
Luckily the body replaces all platelets every 5 days, so donors can donate platelets more frequently, compared to normal whole blood donations.
Anyone can donate platelets providing they meet the following basic donation criteria.
Donors must be between the ages of 16 – 65
Weigh more than 55kg
Lead a safe sexual lifestyle
Be in general good health and
Consider your blood safe for transfusion to a patient

Register today:

You need to call the sunflower fund toll free number on 0800 12 10 82 (Monday – Thursday 08:30 – 16:30 and Friday 08:30 – 14:00) so that we can make sure that you meet the criteria, process your Sunflower / SABMR registration form and reference number and direct you to the closest Donor Recruitment Clinic.
There you will give them the completed form and they will take two test tubes of blood.
Your blood sample is then analysed (called ‘tissue typing’) and put on the national database. The tissue typing test is very costly for the sunflower fund.

We pay R2 500 for each blood test and depend largely on donations from the public. We do ask donors to consider donating generously towards the cost of the test. This frees up our funds to pay for more donors; the more donors on the registry the better the chance patients have of finding a match. Donations of R350 or more are gratefully received. If you are not able to make a donation, we will sponsor the cost of your test. Your form will be emailed to you. Section 18A Certificates can be requested for all financial donations

Donors will in due course be sent a donor card by the SABMR. Donors will only be called back to donate stem cells if they are ever a perfect match for a patient. The odds of being a match are about 1: 100 000 which is why we need as many donors as possible.

The donation procedure is minor with little discomfort.

Please let us know if you have any questions; we are more than happy to help.
Monday – Thursday 8:30 – 16:30, Friday 8:30-14:00 on 0800 12 10 82 or 021 701 0661. We can also assist on our website at [email protected]

Melissa Nel

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