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Coming to terms with a parent's death - Gabriella's fundraising story

After Gabriella’s dad passed away, she was compelled to spread the word about Anthony Nolan and start fundraising. This not only raised vital funds, but helped her to come to terms with her loss.

My dad’s diagnosis and donor

I first became aware of Anthony Nolan when I was 17 and my dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He suffered for years with chemo and every infection under the sun. Watching him deal with it all was really hard for me and my family.

Finally, the time came when the only thing that could potentially save his life was a stem cell transplant. That’s when the doctors told me and my siblings about the Anthony Nolan register where people can sign up to donate their stem cells and potentially save somebody's life. My immediate thought was: where do I sign up?!

My family and I registered online straightaway, and though none of us were a match, one amazing person was, and dad received his transplant. Sadly, the transplant was not successful and after just six weeks, his cancer returned.

Spreading the word

Finding a donor can be difficult for many people, but my dad particularly struggled because there aren’t a lot of people from other cultures on the register, and he was Italian. Now that I’ve seen how difficult it can be to find a donor, I’d urge anyone from any minority background to please sign up.

Knowing Anthony Nolan, and the lifesaving work they do, I found myself wanting to spread the word as much as I could. Being so young myself when my dad passed, and knowing how important it is for young adults to be on the register, I wanted to make everyone aware of the charity. I didn’t want anyone to go through the same thing that I did. So I decided to start fundraising.

My fundraising plans

I did some research online and got in touch with a lovely lady called Beatrix who works at Anthony Nolan. She helped me so much with fundraising and gave me ideas, which really helped as I was so new to it all. It was a breeze with all her help.

An amazing friend of mine is a professional Zumba instructor, so I decided to organise a Zumba class with a raffle. She was really happy to donate her time for such a good cause and it was a great success. I got in contact with people I know and managed to get a venue at my old secondary school.

Old school friends, clients, family and friends of friends attended the class. There were over 50 people. I sold raffle tickets, as well as water and pin badges for World Cancer Day. This all helped to raise over £500 just on that night! And everyone had a great time.

The unexpected way fundraising helped me

I really enjoyed organising the event and raising money for Anthony Nolan. I think doing something like this has helped me in coming to terms with my dad's passing. I used to block it out from everyone and not mention one word about my dad.

But organising the event forced me to talk about him more. Some days I would be upset having to explain my father's struggles, but then I always bring myself back knowing that a difference needs to be made before someone else's dad dies.

My family and I will be forever grateful to the person who tried to save my dad. There is no greater gift to give someone. In total to date I have managed to raise just under £2,000. It costs £40 to sign someone up to the stem cell register, so that money is hugely important. More than anything I hope it brings a cancer patient back home.

I hope to do more fundraising in the future and get as many young people as possible to sign up to the Anthony Nolan register. It’s amazing that we could help save someone's life.

If you have had a bereavement in your family and need some support you can contact Cruse Bereavement Care.

And if you’ve been inspired by Gabriella’s story and would like to help raise money for Anthony Nolan, take a look at how you can get involved.