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Florida boy battling cancer in need of blood stem cell donor

Event to find donor to take place Friday, Saturday
Posted at 11:11 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 17:24:24-05

TAMPA, Fla. — The parents of a Florida boy battling cancer are asking for the public’s help in finding a life-saving blood stem cell donor.

Jakobe "Kobe" Washington, 8, was diagnosed with leukemia in August. He’s receiving treatment at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

"It’s tough to see your kid fighting a fight, and you can’t do anything but be there to support him, no control in it at all," said his father Jordan Washington.

With chemotherapy not working, Kobe’s family says he is now in desperate need of a blood stem cell transplant.

"For Jakobe, his life depends on it," said his mother Imeria Price.

According to Be The Match, the national marrow donor program, Black patients are the least likely to find a matching donor when battling blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.

"Finding a matching donor is difficult, and of the 22 million potential donors on the Be The Match Registry, there are no ideal matches for Kobe," said Erica Sevilla. "This is partially because ancestry matters in finding a match – and African Americans only make up 4% of the registry. The end result: Less than 1 in 4 Black patients find a match compared to 3 in 4 White patients."

Be The Match held a COVID-safe, drive-thru cheek swabbing event Friday. Dozens of people showed up to see if they may be a match. A second event will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at WestShore Plaza in Tampa.

Individuals who cannot make the swabbing event can join the registry by texting KOBE to 61474 and a cheek swab kit will be mailed to their home.

"I have a bright future planned ahead of me,” Kobe said Thursday from a hospital bed in St. Pete. “I just need your help to get through this and I’m going to keep fighting."

Be The Match is hoping to find donors between the ages of 18 and 44, which they say has the highest success rate for donations.

Jessie McNeil hopes he can be a match for Kobe, or anyone else on the waiting list. “God has given me a blessed life and a fortunate life so I would love for Kobe to be able to experience life as well,” he said.

Bekin Burkinshaw also got his cheeks swapped to see if he could help. “There’s 22 million people in the database and not a single match for Kobe which is kind of an unbelievable statistic to think is real, so I think it’s important to try to give him that one person who could help him out and save his life,” added.