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Why Do People Volunteer?

Have you ever considering volunteering your time.  Some people have a skill, or an experience that they wish to share.  Others are looking to gain an experience or learn about something new.  And many just want to give back, to feel that they contributed, assisted another person, or supported a particular mission or purpose.

At Icla da Silva, our mission is to save lives by recruiting bone marrow donors and provide support services to children and adults with leukemia and other diseases treatable by marrow transplants.  

We could not continue this mission without the support of our many volunteers.  We celebrate those who have the desire to give, learn, share and the dedication to contribute their time to our foundation.  We are grateful to the many students, survivors, patients, family members, and friends who put forth great effort to continue our mission.

Volunteers help us organize and activate more than 2500 bone marrow drives across the country every year.  They assist us in the development and activation of fundraising events, they act as committee members and they serve on our board.

We are thankful to every last one of them.

We recently asked some of our volunteers about why they work with us. Below you will find some of their stories.

If you wish to become a volunteer with us, please visit here to enter your information and we will contact you.

Peggy Rios – Miami, FL

I volunteer because I am amazed that I can be a small part of an effort that literally saves lives.  It is especially important to inform Hispanics about the importance of joining the registry so more of our Latino friends and loved ones who are struggling with bone marrow diseases can be saved.

I want people to know the realities of joining – how easy it is and how safe it is and most importantly how magnificent it is to be able to save someone’s life.

Many people don’t  join because they are afraid.  They know very little about the process and usually most of what they think is false.  They are unaware of how easy to can be to save a life and how worth it is. I hope that as more donors and recipients share their stories more people will join the registry.

Georgina Tiniakos – Chicago, IL 

I volunteer with Icla da Silva  because I want to spread more information about the benefits of donating bone marrow. It can save lives.






Sisters from Lambda Theta Alpha, Gamma Epsilon Chapter – Florida State University

We chose to volunteer for the Icla da Silva Foundation because we want to spread awareness to as many people as possible, in the hopes of one day saving someones life!




Lonnie Fowler – Orlando, FL

I first learned about the Icla da Silva Foundation from my wife who is a professor at Florida Technical College.  They were doing a donor drive on campus. The moment I found out what they do for people; I knew I had to help. I spoke at the school when they came to visit and that’s how I met Mauricio Murillo. I wanted to do my part and tell my story to help other people save lives.  

By joining the registry you can help save a life.  If it weren’t for organizations like the Icla da Silva Foundation, I wouldn’t be alive today to tell my story.  I am an AML leukemia survivor for over 20 years. You just fill out application, do the swabs and if you’re a match, you get a call to donate.

I believe the biggest challenge for people is knowing the procedure and seeing value on why they should make a donation.  There are also many myths out there regarding bone marrow donation. It’s a simple process, easy to register and also donate when a match is found.  

More stories of survivors need to be told.  It will inspire and motivate people to help save someone who is really in need. Statistics are also important on how a bone marrow transplant increases the odds of survival for those battling cancer.  My odds were a 5-10% chance to survive the transplant; imagine what my chances of surviving were without it. I wrote a book about my cancer survivor story and about my transplant. I’m in the process of doing a revamped version including more details of my story. (You can visit here to find out more about Lonnie’s book.)

Marta Mendez – Chicago, IL

Volunteering has always been a rewarding experience especially with the very kind hearted and hard working people I have met at Icla da Silva. I hope that our efforts in raising awareness of the donation registry has made a significant impact on people’s lives.



Natalia Mejia – Weston, FL

I volunteer because I like to help people regardless of their nationality, age, gender or condition. There is much need in everything related to cancer including education. Community unity is important.

There is a lack of information about how easy it can be to save a life through donation.  We must start by making people aware of what it means to register as a possible donor. Let each person understand that it can be the only opportunity save a patient with a blood disease.

Because people do not know the information, they have the wrong perception of what it means to be a bone marrow donor. They don’t even understand that the chances of being a donor are really low.

In December of 2017 my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I am now fully aware that one of the treatments is a bone marrow transplant,  I am convinced of the need to educate people, especially those who do not register due to ignorance or lack of reliable information.

Love Your Melon – University of Central Florida

We work with the Love Your Melon Campus Crews at many different universities.  You can read more about our relationship here

The girls at the University of Central Florida insist that the bone marrow registry is so important, whether they sign up 5 people or 50 to the registry, it’s all making a difference, because it only takes one match to help save a life.

Dr. Nalliene Chavez Rivera – Roanoke, VA

I started volunteering for the foundation when I was in college. I was looking for a way to make a difference, develop my leadership skills and learn about topics that were related to medicine. When I joined the Icla team with Mauricio, and we began talking to others about bone marrow donation and blood cell donation; I realized the huge need there was for more information and understanding in regards to this topic. This motivated me even more to educate others and dispel myths around this issue. I also learned a lot about myself and what motivated me to pursue my medical career, seeing the profound effect that diseases can have in the human day to day life and condition.

As I was volunteering, I also realized the need to recruit as many people as possible, especially minorities. When I thought about it, minorities encompass such a small percentage of the registry that if anyone in my family ever got sick we would have a much lower chance of finding a life saving bone marrow match. Registering also does not mean you will get called to donate the next day but it does mean that you have the option of doing so, knowing that you will play a crucial part in a potential life saving intervention.

Sometimes the process is scary so I encourage everyone to get educated on the need and the process of bone marrow and blood cell donation and give someone else the gift of living a healthy life. I think media and movies have helped spread the idea that this process is painful and dangerous to those donating and getting the right information and garnish interest from others has been a challenge.  

Being in the medical field I have met many children and adults with bone cancer. I have seen first hand how devastating this diagnosis can be to the patient, and their families and close friends. I have seen the frustration from families and their pain as they try to do everything possible to save their loved ones life. This makes it very hard for me to understand why most people won’t sign up. Seeing these cases every day makes me want to teach others and encourage them to sign up to the registry and really give others the chance to live a full healthy life.

Thank you to our many volunteers.  Without you, we could not save as many lives or support as many patients in need!  If you wish to join us as a volunteer, please visit this link and enter your information so we can contact you. 


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Please read about our patient Aashim Joy and his search for a matching bone marrow donor here:



You can register to become a donor in the U.S. by clicking the link here:

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Why Donate to ICLA?

Your gift helps us find a matching marrow donor for every patient that needs one. Thanks your help – we couldn’t do it without you!

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An Incredible Day at #HopeWeek with the Yankees

ICLA Hope Week Yankees Bone Marrow Match

What a fantastic week at the Icla da Silva Foundation.  We were privileged to share yet another tale of hope and pure humanity.  This is the story of the first honorees for the 2017 New York Yankees Hope Week Celebration (#HopeWeek) – the inspirational story of Victor Garcia and his adorable little sister, Nayyelyn.  Victor’s story is one of strength and dignity.  He has valiantly made it through a difficult battle with Acute Biphenotypic Leukemia (ABL), which started back in the spring of 2015.

A Firm Foundation

The long chain of events in Victor’s journey initiated close communication between Mom, Ana, and a previous #HOPEWeek honoree, Johanna Arias, the Program Coordinator at The Icla da Silva Foundation.  They eventually met in 2016 and after spending time with the Garcias, Johanna fell head over heels in love with this beautiful family.  Johanna’s own story of hope showed how perseverance can change the course of your life during #HOPEWeek 2010 and she wanted to pay it forward.  Johanna describes how her experience as a HOPE Week honoree made it possible for her to help inspiring families like the Garcias.

I was awarded an internship at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, which provided the administrative experience I needed to move forward in my professional career.  This, in turn, was instrumental in securing the position as Program Coordinator for the Icla da Silva Foundation.”

Johanna’s position at The Icla da Silva Foundation has since enabled her to meet some amazing people and to assist wherever she can.  In honor of Icla herself, the foundation aims to reach 38,000 new potential bone marrow donors annually.  The Icla da Silva Foundation has a special emphasis in recruiting ethnic diverse donors because there are not enough on the bone marrow registry.  You can read Icla’s full story here.

The Big Apple

Victor was due to return to the Dominican Republic in February but his doctors advised he was not yet well enough to travel. In the meantime, Johanna called up an old contact at The New York Yankees to see if she could organize a surprise tour of the Yankee stadium.  With baseball practically being a religion in the Dominican Republic, she knew the Garcias were huge fans.

The tour didn’t materialize, but the media team at the New York Yankees decided to do something better instead.  After a few weeks of meetings, the Icla da Silva Foundation was confirmed as one of the honorees for this year’s HOPE week celebration.

“I told Ana we were finally bringing them to the city to spend a few days sightseeing. The team at YES Network reached out to me to organize an interview for the family, but we couldn’t tell them what it was for.”

#HOPEWeek is an annual charity event hosted by the New York Yankees.  It is a week to celebrate and highlight community heroes, dubbed ‘honorees’ by the Yankees.  These honorees are individuals who inspire or initiate noteworthy deeds in their local community.

Under the guise of needing videos for the new website the Icla team was building, Ana unsuspectingly agreed to the interview.  On May 20th, the family was brought down to New York and did the interview for YES Network.  Treated to a marvelous day of sightseeing around the Big Apple, the tired, happy family were told that the following day would start with a tour of the Yankees Stadium.  They  expressed earlier that the stadium was ‘much bigger than they had imagined.’ They drove past it on their way down from New Haven.  They even asked her if there was a game they could stay and watch. “I had to lie and told them that I didn’t think we had time for that,” she admitted.

A Day Out With The Yankees

On May 22nd, 2017 the big day finally arrived.  It began with a tour of the Yankee stadium, as promised.  The Icla da Silva Foundation team met up and started the ‘tour’ in the batting cage behind the dugout.  That was when the real surprise was revealed, and there was no holding back! Cameras captured excitement as the family were told they were honorees for #HOPEWeek 2017; and would spend the entire day with some of the players at the stadium and at the world-famous Bronx Zoo!  They would even be back for the Yankees game later that evening!

After chuckling their way through a batting practice with the Yankees, the group traveled to the Bronx Zoo. Taking a shuttle from the stadium to the Bronx Zoo, there was an electric air of anticipation as the children were hurtled into a whole other world. When they arrived they had lunch with the players at the Dancing Crane Cafe with the nearby flamingos for company.

After lunch, Jason Zillo, Director of the Media Department at the New York Yankees, presented Airam  da Silva and the Foundation with a generous $10,000 donation check towards the Foundation’s patient support services. Then they were off to see the animals!

Gorillas, Monkeys and Snakes

The intimate exhibits and exotic collection of animals of the Bronx Zoo completely captivated the imaginations of Victor and Nayyelyn.  The group took a spin around the fascinating place taking in sights and sounds beyond imagination.

Entertainment was continuously provided by both the hilarious reactions of each of the children and comical monkeys, slithering snakes, unusual tree kangaroos and gnarly asian crocodiles. The kids were in paradise.

“We saw the gorillas at the Congo Exhibit first. Everyone, not just the kids were excited about that. You can see Nayyelyn banging her chest alongside the gorillas in one of the news articles from that day.”

After more fun and games, we headed back to the stadium for dinner and to watch the game.  We were treated to in the Legends Suite Dining Hall where the two young honorees went ballistic once they realized all the candy was free – and that there was not one, but two candy fully-stocked candy bars!  Obviously, an abundance of Ring Pops and Kit-Kats were readily consumed that evening.

After dinner was another fantastic surprise, Victor and Nayyelyn were asked to throw the first pitch of the game – an honor both were more than happy to accept.  After all, what is a little pitch in front of a stadium full of people when you have come through bone marrow transplants and endless months of recovery?  The game was a success and the Yankees won, so the deserving honorees got to close out the day down on the field, giving ecstatic high fives all around.  Just imagine the stories both will tell their grandchildren one day!

A Victor-y

Thanks to the vision of HOPE Week, and the dedicated efforts of people like Johanna at The Icla da Silva Foundation, Victor, Nayyelyn and Ana got to be part of a larger story of hope and love.  There is no doubt that #HOPEWeek 2017 was a day that Victor and his family will be talking about for a long time.

The Icla da Silva Foundation is growing an initiative to help more patients like Victor each year.  If you would like to donate to support the patient services that saved Victor’s life please consider making a financial donation .

There is an especially great need for bone marrow donors from ethnic diverse communites to come forward because not everyone has a superhero like Nayyelyn to help them fight.  Could you be someone’s Nayyelyn?  Find out how to join the registry here.  Like Nayyelyn, you are the key to a long and happy life for brave souls like Victor.





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