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Bone marrow drive honors Plainview teen

Tyler Zsebedics, 14, and Shelby McKay, 16, volunteer

Tyler Zsebedics, 14, and Shelby McKay, 16, volunteer at the bone marrow donor drive organized by Driftwood Day Camp to remember Spencer Reis, 14, who died of cancer. (May 6, 2012) (Credit: Alexi Knock)

Spencer Reis loved soccer, gymnastics and doing impersonations at Driftwood Day Camp in Melville.

When the 14-year-old Plainview John F. Kennedy High School freshman was injured on the mat at Tioga summer camp in Thompson, Pa., in July, the minor injury led doctors to discover that he had leukemia.

After eight months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Reis’ family was told he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive.

Almost immediately, the boy’s counselors and nurses at Driftwood Day Camp started planning a bone marrow donor drive for Reis to be held at his favorite camp on May 6, the day after his 15th birthday.

But Reis lost his battle with cancer on April 15, two weeks before more than 100 members of the community came together to register as bone marrow donors.

“Spencer was someone who would do anything for someone else,” said Kim Conway, Camp Tioga nurse. “So we decided to continue with the bone marrow donor drive so that we could help others we may not even know. This is to honor him.”

Tables for the bone marrow registration lined the Driftwood Day Camp playhouse where Reis once practiced his gymnastics skills. Would be donors may be called at if they are a possible match for someone who needs a bone marrow transplant until they age out at 55.

Donors swabbed the insides of their cheeks, which will be sent to DKMS, a bone marrow donation registration organization founded in Germany in 1991 that expanded to the United States in 2004 and seeks to match donors to those who need bone marrow.

“This camp is a very tight community and we know that even if we get one match out of our drive, we’ll be happy to save one life,” said Mike Wagenberg, co-owner of Driftwood Day Camp and Tioga Camp.

Classmates of Reis who were too young to be donors volunteered at the drive and remembered their friend.

“This really proves that the community cares about each other,” said Shelby McKay, 16, a former classmate of Reis.

In addition to the bone marrow drive, local businesses donated products for a raffle to help Reis’ family with medical bills.

“Spencer was always giving and caring and always trying his hardest,” said Gregg Wolf, 48, of Plainview, Reis’ former soccer coach. “He will be greatly missed.”

Above: Tyler Zsebedics, 14, and Shelby McKay, 16, volunteer at the bone marrow donor drive at Driftwood Day Camp to remember Spencer Reis, 14, who died of cancer in April. (May 6, 2012)

Tags: Melville , Driftwood Day Camp , bone , marrow , registration

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