Donor drives to be held for two Kansas Citians who need life-saving bone marrow transplants

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two Kansas Citians, one a new mother and the other a father of three, need bone marrow transplants to live. Donor drives will be held for each of them on Saturday. The say the odds are long that their donors will come from those drives, but donors for others could.

Ali Tolefree does some chores around the house, but his lawn care business is on hold. The 41-year-old man learned in May why he had mouth sores and had lost weight. He has leukemia.

"I live and I die for God. That's how I took it. That's kinda how I've been dealing with it," said Tolefree.

He needs a bone marrow transplant, and there's no matching donor on the registry. African-Americans have a 66 percent chance of finding one compared to 93 percent for Caucasians.

"We're just kinda championing the cause. We want to get out and want to do our first bone marrow drive," said Tolefree.

He and his wife hope 500 friends and strangers will turn out for the drive this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brush Creek Community Center, 3801 Brush Creek Boulevard, in Kansas City.

In the mean time, Tolefree's son, UMKC basketball star Martez Harrison, is being tested to see if he can be his dad's donor.

"I said no matter what happens to me, I said it's important to make people aware," said Tolefree.

Another marrow drive will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bucher Family Dentistry, 975 N. Mur-Len, Suite B, in Olathe. It's for 24-year-old Aimee Threlfall.

"I called my mom and told her I'm tired all the time and she's like that's okay, that's what happens when you're pregnant," recalled Threlfall.

But at 35 weeks pregnant, blood testing revealed Threlfall has aplastic anemia. Her body had stopped producing new blood cells and she badly needed transfusions. Her baby boy, Todd, was delivered early.

"His birth is a miracle. He just gives so much joy every day," said Threlfall of her son who's now five months old.

A marrow transplant could be her cure. There's no match in her family, but through the registry, a possible match has been found in Germany. Threlfall says she's uplifted by the efforts of friends and family to hold the drive for her.

"Even if I don't get a match out of this, that someone else might and that's just awesome," she said.

For more information on becoming a marrow donor, go to DeleteBloodCancer.org At a marrow drive, you register by filling out a form and having the inside of your cheeks swabbed. Then, if you match someone, you'll be contacted about being the donor. People in good health between the ages of 18 and 55 are welcome to register.