Australian Rotarians raise money for blood bank
RI Director Stuart Heal and his wife Adrienne (left) and RI President Ray Klinginsmith and his wife Judie at the groundbreaking for the cord blood bank in Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Photo by John Feary
Rotarians have raised US$6 million for a new cord blood bank in Perth, Western Australia, Australia, that will help patients facing life-threatening illnesses.
RI President Ray Klinginsmith participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility, a centennial project of Rotary clubs throughout the state, in December. During a multidistrict conference in March, the participating districts celebrated reaching their funding goal.
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service will operate and manage the blood bank, which will be on the third floor of the organization’s building in Perth. The project will cover construction, equipment, and certification costs, and contribute to the first four years of operating expenses. The facility is expected to be completed this month.
The cord blood bank -- the first in the state and the fourth in the country -- will store tissue types that are not available elsewhere in the world, including those from ethnic groups indigenous to Western Australia.
Cord blood, found in the umbilical cord and placenta after childbirth, is a rich source of blood-forming stem cells. (The umbilical cord, placenta, and the blood they contain have no function after birth.) Stem-cell transplants have advantages over bone marrow transplants in the treatment of patients with diseases of the immune system or blood, such as leukemia. The collection process is noninvasive, and involves a simple blood transfusion. There is also a lower risk of tissue rejection, infection, and similar complications.
Gail Lazzaro, senior scientist with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in Perth, says public cord blood programs allow any matched patient in the community to receive donations. “The blood bank will give healthy mothers giving birth to healthy babies the opportunity to donate cord blood for the good of the whole community,” she says.
The facility will link to the Australian cord blood registry. At a given time, about 1,100 patients are on search lists across the country for cord blood or bone marrow donations.
“The [Western Australia] cord blood program will be able to help fill the gaps in the national cord blood registry by focusing on the unique ethnic mixes in this community,” Lazzaro says. “It is patients with rare tissue types who are unlikely to find suitable matches.”
The centennial project launched in 2004-05 after a selection panel of non-Rotarians reviewed more than 50 proposals. The blood bank proposal was submitted by Inner Wheel clubs in Western Australia.
The medical nature of the project carries on a Rotary tradition in the region. In 1955, for Rotary's 50th anniversary, clubs in Western Australia raised funds to build the state's first medical school, at the University of Western Australia.
Lotterywest, an independent gaming agency supervised by the government, contributed $2 million to the blood bank project, which also received support from corporate donors. Rotary clubs raised an additional $1.2 million through a variety of fundraisers.
Peter McKerracher, an assistant regional Rotary Foundation coordinator and project committee chair, says the blood bank has helped strengthen clubs throughout the state and enhanced Rotary's image in the community.
"Clubs across Western Australia have supported this project, and have been united in their support of it, for over five years," he says. "We are confident this facility will continue to serve the community for many years to come."
Parts of this story were adapted from Rotary Down Under