With the spirit of Christmas and giving never more evident, a community came out by the hundreds to help a young girl find a donor and to be placed on the bone marrow registry on Saturday.

Gathering in Central High School’s Cellar Room, the bone marrow registry drive saw more people who were willing to help 4-year-old Sammy Smith, the daughter of Gregory and Kimberly Smith of Park Hills, than expected.

“We had 234 people signup to be (potential) donors,” said Genny Larkin, a long-time friend of the Smith family and organizer of the registration drive. “We are so proud of our community and very grateful for those who turned out.”

According to Gregory Smith, daughter Sammy was diagnosed with a bone marrow failure disorder called “familial monosomy 7,” a form of “pre-leukemia.” Her doctors have determined she needs a bone marrow transplant and that without it her condition will inevitably turn into leukemia.

“I have three sisters who passed away from leukemia,” Smith said. “We have been very lucky with Sammy to have found the pre-leukemia gene before it has had a chance to mutate into a leukemic cell.”

Once a donor has been found, and the transplant complete, Sammy should be protected from the disease.

“Once we do the transplant, Sammy will be golden,” Smith said. “The cancer should be gone.”

Many of the people who came to the drive on Saturday to see if they were a match and to be placed on the registry were not close friends or family ... but simply area residents who felt the need to help.

“We are doing it just to see if we can help,” said Whitney O’Connor, who was at the drive with her husband, Tom. “We have three little girls, so we wanted to see if we were a match. If anything would happen to ours, we would hope someone would be there to help us.”

As the prospective donors filed through the room, Smith was truly amazed by the generosity and compassion from so many people.

“It’s very overwhelming,” Smith said. “We are just an ordinary family with this issue, and here we have this outpouring of support from the community. We could not be more thankful.”

Anyone who would like to see if they are a match for Sammy or would like to be placed on the registry can contact DKMS.org for more information.

Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3629 or at cvaughn@farmingtonpressonline.com

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