190 New Donors from GCC Philadelphia! Rest in Peace, Arthur Halim.

Dan speaking on stage

Two weeks ago, on Friday 3/17 and Sunday 3/19, we ran a bone marrow drive at Grace Covenant Church (GCC) in Philadelphia, PA at UPenn’s campus. Of all the bone marrow drives and speaking engagements I’ve ever done I think this one meant the most.

I was a Penn undergrad and GCC attendee when I was diagnosed with AML on December 7, 2006. The same room in which I shared my story for 40 mins on Friday is the same room that my friends wept and prayed for my life in 10 years ago.

The drive was in honor of Arthur Halim, a Penn undergrad and GCC attendee who died of leukemia in July of last year.  I never met Arthur or knew him personally so initially I really struggled with what to say. But after speaking with some of his friends and reflecting on some of his own words before he passed I realized how much our experiences overlapped. I heard about his struggles with school, his desire to survive, the intensity of his sickness and the grace and peace in which he met death. Eventually the words came, and Friday’s talk went really well.

Man and woman swab their cheeks

We registered 190 total people across Friday and Sunday services. While I do my best not to get caught up in numbers, 190 is insane — more than double our total for all of 2016. The sheer amount of people who were willing to commit to join the registry and sacrifice for others was amazing to see.

A crowd of people seated at desks swabbing their cheeks

Although Arthur’s bone marrow transplant didn’t save his life it gave him four additional months — four months he spent returning to campus to see his friends. Through Arthur so many people were able to see, in real terms, what committed bone marrow donors can mean for others.

Man swabs cheek at desk

Sharing the story of Cheekswab at Penn was the realization of a dream I’ve held for 10 years. I still remember the night that Cheekswab began as a promise on my hospital bed, at a hospital only steps away from the events of Friday and Sunday. I could have never imagined then that I’d be back at Penn sharing that story a decade later.

Volunteers sitting on steps smiling

Thank you to the gracious friends from both Philly and NYC who volunteered their time to help run the drive. It’s literally only via the support from volunteers like you that Cheekswab can be a reality.

Excited group of new donors smiling at camera

And a special thank you to everyone who joined the lottery to save a life!

Completed swab kits in a pile

Rest in Peace, Arthur Halim. You are gone but not forgotten, and it was so clear all weekend that your friends in Philly love and honor you.


Drive recaps! 22 new donors from NYU AACF and 7 new donors from Grace Faith Church!

Hi all,

Sorry for the long overdue recaps (my wife and I moved apartments this month which seriously consumed our lives) but I’d like to thank the 29 people who decided to become bone marrow donors in the past month!

On Wednesday, 9/28/2016 we ran a drive with NYU’s Asian Christian Fellowship, where 22 new people signed up:

Tables of students registering to join the bone marrow registry
Two East Asian women smiling into Cheekswab frame
Two East Asian men smiling into Cheekswab frame

and on Sunday, 10/22/2016, we ran at drive at Grace Faith Church in Chinatown NYC, where we were able to register 7 new donors:

Two new registrants from Grace Faith Church
Young Asian man smiling in cheekswab frame
Man and son smiling in Cheekswab frame

Thank you to everyone we met and spoke to — everyone was super encouraging, with a number of people from the NYU drive who were already registered (!) and several at Grace Faith Church who said they would’ve joined if they met age/medical qualifications. While the ultimate goal is to register as many minority donors as possible, spreading awareness and reception of the message is the road to making that happen.

I’ll never forget the frustration I felt on my hospital bed about the fact that despite a lack of minority donors being a “huge problem” I had never heard about it. No one reached out to the minority communities I was a part of.

These drives are part of the road we travel to making that happen. Thanks to everyone for listening to my story, and please don’t hesitate to share the story with others in your life for whom it may be relevant.

As always, another shout out to all of the friends who help volunteer to help staff our drives. Cheekswab isn’t a reality without your support.

Volunteers for the NYU AACF Cheekswab drive

23 new donors from Good News Church NYC!

Compilation of GNC donors holding up a cheekswab sign
23 new donors at Good News Church NYC

Thank you to the 23 new donors from Good News Church NYC that #SwabbedToSaveALife on Sunday!

It really was a tremendous turnout, with so many people already on the registry. It was a pleasure having the opportunity to share about bone marrow donation and engage with such a tight-knit community. Thank you so much for the time, space and opportunity!

Donors filling out forms on tables


16 new donors at City Grace NYC!

City Grace Cheekswab Compilation

Thank you to everyone who came out to City Grace NY this afternoon! We’re happy to report that we had a total of 16 new registrants to the bone marrow registry, which was an awesome response.

Thank you so much to the members of City Grace NY — Ben Spalink, Steven and Cancha — and the employees of the Anthology Film Archives for all of their help organizing and executing the drive.

Thank you for joining the lottery to save a life!

City Grace registrants compilation


38 New Donors at Hope Midtown!

Hope Midtown Drive

Thanks again to the community at Hope Midtown for volunteering their time, space and resources in hosting the first ever Cheekswab bone marrow drive in NYC this past Sunday.  Running a drive in NYC definitely presents challenges over running a drive in VA (including taking supplies to/from the drive location in a suitcase via cab) and due to the three year period since my last drive I had a few anxieties going into Sunday but it went as smoothly as I could have possibly hoped.  Personally I felt like the drive validated all of the effort that’s been put into relaunching Cheekswab.  It really seemed like people on Sunday understood and accepted the weight of the commitment of joining the registry.

Cheekswab volunteers for the Hope Midtown bone marrow drive
Volunteers for Sunday

And a huge, huge thank you to the friends and family who took time out of their Sunday to volunteer and man stations at the drive, as well as receive training earlier in the week.  Running drives is still an art that I’m nowhere near perfecting but things go so much more smoothly with the help of patient and willing volunteers.  None of this is possible without you.

I’m now looking for additional opportunities to run drives addressing ethnic minority groups in NYC.  Please contact me if there’s a group or organization you’re involved with that would be interested!