by Lisa Lyons
Erin Sachse wanted to find a special way to thank City of Hope for saving the life of her father, who received a stem cell transplant to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The idea Sachse settled upon resulted in a $25,000 donation from the enterprising seventh grader, who attends Crossroads Middle School in Santa Monica, Calif.
For her Bat Mitzvah project, Sachse undertook a letter-writing campaign asking for donations to support the work of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., chair, Division of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, in stem cell research and lymphoma treatment. She also wanted to raise awareness of the need for bone marrow donors, and she encouraged family and friends to consider becoming donors.
“The reaction to my letter was unbelievable,” said Sachse. “Everyone responded in such a positive way. I learned so much about myself and what I can accomplish in my life from this experience. I also learned how generous people are and how much they care.”
Forman, for his part, was delighted with the surprise gift from Sachse. He was impressed with the compassionate spirit that motivated her campaign. “I am very encouraged about the future of philanthropy knowing it rests in the hands of young people like Erin,” he said.
In further recognition of her generosity, a plaque honoring her gift graces the entrance to Examination Room 5 in the Geri and Richard Brawerman Center for Ambulatory Care. She received recognition from Forman, as well, when he announced her donation to the 5,000-plus attendees of the “Celebration of Life” Bone Marrow Transplantation Reunion on April 21.
Sachse said she believes cancer is not an individual disease; it is a family disease that she, her mother Julie and her brother Jake have been living with for the past three-and-a-half years. The main benefit of her Miztvah project was learning to overcome her fears about her father’s illness and feeling empowered by the experience of taking positive action, she said.
“This project has made me a stronger person,” she said. “I know now that with my voice I am capable of achieving anything I wish to pursue.”