A heartwarming reunion marked the annual Steps of Life 5K event on Sunday as the recipient of a life-saving stem cell transplant finally met the donor who saved her life. Joane Straka, a mother and grandmother, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma leukemia over a year ago. Without a complete match in her family, Straka’s hopes were pinned on finding a stranger willing to donate. Her savior turned out to be 39-year-old Kenneth Saloway, a Marine veteran who had signed up during a Hanukkah event. They met for the first time at the Florida Atlantic University campus, exchanging a long and emotional hug.
Straka expressed her gratitude, stating that Saloway had made an immeasurable difference in her family’s life. Saloway, having experienced the process firsthand, hopes to raise awareness about the impact of stem cell transplants. The Steps of Life 5K event, organized by Gift of Life, witnessed dozens of participants running or walking around the FAU campus. Gift of Life CEO Jay Feinberg stressed the significance of the event in terms of raising funds and raising awareness for those requiring a donor. Gift of Life operates a national bone marrow and stem cell registry, saving the lives of leukemia and blood cancer patients each year. Those interested in becoming donors can sign up on the organization’s website.