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Volunteer Highlight: Omari Jinaki

The Icla da Silva Foundation hits the jackpot when it comes to selfless volunteers who unite behind the quest we are all passionate about: a second chance at life through a perfect bone marrow donor match.  It is not every day, however, one comes across a soul which affects the world as powerfully as this one does.  Movers and shakers, volunteers like Omari Jinaki, are the backbone of our organization, without whom the unending workload would quickly overwhelm.

There is something pure and special about Omari.  His career in advertising perfectly suits the vibrant personality and charming sincerity he radiates when you first meet him.  In 2009, Omari was offered a golden opportunity to internship at Ogilvy & Mather in New York.  An incredible upside to the internship was the chance to fall under the mentorship of executive Marlon Layne, described by Omari as “vibrant, effusive, emotive, purposeful, driven, diligent, far-reaching, and culturally bold. It was inspiring to be around him and to emulate him.”

Not long afterwards, Omari had moved on to bigger and better things, fueled by the success he drew from Marlon’s robust leadership and continuous encouragement.  His beloved and awe-inspiring mentor was then unexpectedly diagnosed with a blood cancer only curable through a successful bone marrow transplant.  Shocked and uninformed about the implications, Omari began a search for information, determined to come to a full understanding of what his friend and mentor might be facing.  

In the ensuing weeks and months it became clear something urgent needed to be done.  Enquiries led Omari to the realization that Marlon, and others like him, needed dedicated assistance, a lot of prayer and a small dose of luck if a perfect donor match was going to be found on time. Left waiting for something so important seemed inhuman and cruel.  Could finding a perfect match be so difficult?  

It turns out that for minorities, with a limited pool of donors, and society’s preconceived misconceptions about what it takes to be a bone marrow donor, it can be.  Not to be deterred, optimist Omari stepped forward and chose action over complacency.  He connected with the Icla da Silva Foundation, the largest recruitment center for the Be the Match bone marrow registry in the United States.  From that moment forward, he remained dedicated to raising funds, creating public awareness and recruiting potential bone marrow donors.  

The Icla da Silva Foundation deeply appreciates Omari’s selfless involvement and hard work, aligned with the cause so close to our heart.  Sadly, Marlon was unable to find a match on time and succumbed to the disease soon afterwards.  Omari and his colleagues embarked on a bold campaign in loving memory of the great man they all admired.  The aim of the movement was to spread the word about the prevalence of blood cancers, the need for a greater donor pool and the plight of those with an unknown amount of time left to live a full and wonderful life.  

Amazingly, the first three years the group was able to raise almost $42,000 and sign up 160 new bone marrow donors to the Be the Match Registry.  On 1 July 2014, Omari and his colleagues were part of an awareness-raising showcase on Spectrum News NY1.  The inspiring piece highlighted the need for both stateside and international bone marrow donors, clarifying common misconceptions about the bone marrow testing and donation processes.  A reassuring demonstration on how simple it was to test as a match drew large public attention.  It cleared the path for thousands of potential new donors for bone marrow registries like Be The Match Registry.

In the time working with the Icla da Silva Foundation, Omari has seen how bone marrow transplants work.  He has met patients saved through a successful match.  He spends time with these families and sees the results with his own eyes. ”It is incredible to see someone come back to life; and regain their zest, energy, and spirit.”

Omari pours his time and energy into fundraising efforts such as the Matchmaker 5K Run/Walk benefitting the Icla da Silva Foundation.  Omari has been running this particular race since 2011 and continues to return year after year, even after he having relocated away from New York.  He was drawn to this cause because a cure exists.  It only requires understanding that the larger the registry of potential donors, the greater the chance a match will be found and a patient cured.  “I was one of those unaware healthy people.”

Omari’s contributions are truly invaluable and his attitude is inspiring. It seems fitting to end this tribute with his own words of encouragement:

“With your help, I hope we can bring more live-saving treatments to patients searching for a marrow match.   Your donation goes directly to register a more diverse array of marrow donors on the registry, which increases the chances of each patient finding the live-saving donor they need. I remain incredibly appreciative of the long-time, ongoing supporters, who support Icla because they support me.  I will never forget my first donor, Kenny Alexander, who sparked for years of life-saving treatments for people around the world.  Immense thanks.  Spread love.”

Do Something Different

You too can change a life today by:

Even the smallest amount helps us continue our efforts to grow the registry and provides financial assistance to patients in need.

Of course, you could also become a volunteer and participate in the heroic efforts displayed by Omari and so many other valued members of this worthy cause.

We thank you Omari Jinaki.  

We appreciate your continued support of the Icla da Silva Foundation and recognize your unique enthusiasm for love and life.