A3M (Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches) will honor the founders of the Dale M. Inouye (DMI) Foundation with the Human Spirit Award at its annual gala dinner on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Los Angeles.
“What they do is unique, using sports as a way to educate not only the young kids who participate in these basketball games, but also their siblings and parents with regards to leukemia and other blood cancers,” said Shin Ito, A3M executive director.
The foundation was inspired by the courageous fight of Dale Inouye, a Torrance youth, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was two years old. Despite his illness, he enjoyed attending school and playing FOR basketball, where his coaches praised his positive attitude.
After a successful bone marrow transplant in February 2007, both Dale and his brother, Derek, his donor, were able to get back to life and enjoy it fully. But the cancer returned in 2008 and after a valiant fight, Dale succumbed to leukemia on March 16, 2008. He died peacefully, surrounded by family, friends, and relatives, at the tender age of nine.
The DMI Foundation was started in 2010 by a group of his coaches and his friends, including Cathie Tani, a friend of Dale’s mom, Randy Kiehm, Harvey Kitani and Scott Mibu, whose son Dylan was Dale’s teammate on the FOR Pacers. They organized the inaugural DMI Memorial Basketball Tournament in August 2010 at CSU Dominguez Hills to perpetuate the Dale’s memory, raise funds for cancer research, and promote youth sports and scholarships.
Funds raised at the gala will help the organization in its efforts to find marrow donors for patients. A3M conducts over 600 drives annually, on behalf of patients searching for donors from the Japanese American, as well as African American, Chinese, Hispanic, Korean, Filipino, South Asian and Vietnamese communities.
Ito noted that a number of patients who have received marrow transplants will also be appearing at the gala.
“We’re bringing up maybe eight to 10 patients who have already gone through the transplant process and are living thriving lives thanks to the donation of a stranger,” Ito said. “Through these donations, lives are saved and that’s something very powerful.”
He said the work has become more challenging due to new regulations enacted in 2012, which require that people who sign up at donor drives be between 18 and 44 years old. Individuals who are 45 and older can still sign up online for an individual kit through the organization’s website, www.a3mhope.com. Transplant doctors prefer donors between 18 and 44, since cells from younger donors tend to be more successful transplants.
“It has changed the way we recruit. We have to ask more questions about the demographic of a particular venue,” Ito said.
Ito said A3M has seen the number of donor matches increase in recent years, thanks to the donor drives.
“With advances in treatment, the fact we’re doing more drives, we’re seeing these numbers increase,” he stated. “But there are still hundreds of thousands who don’t find a match. Our work is not done.”
Tickets to the gala cost $180 or $1,700 for a table of ten. There will be a reception with hors d’oeuvres and silent auction at 5 p.m., followed by dinner and program at 6:30 p.m. The Hyatt Regency, formerly the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown, is located at 333 S. Figueroa. Sponsorships opportunities are still available. For more information, contact Madhuri Mistry at (213) 625-2802, ext 112 or email [email protected]
– GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo