Sergeant offers hope through bone marrow drive at Correctional Training Center

Correctional Training Center Administrator Robert Calderon, left, and Cypress Police Chief Jackie Gomez-Whiteley, at right, present an award to Sgt. Sharon Hoffer during a recent bone marrow drive as part of Officers Give Hope. Gomez-Whiteley serves as the organization’s president and made the trek from Cypress for the drive and to present the award.

Correctional Training Center Administrator Robert Calderon, left, and Cypress Police Chief Jackie Gomez-Whiteley, at right, present an award to Sgt. Sharon Hoffer during a recent bone marrow drive as part of Officers Give Hope. Gomez-Whiteley serves as the organization’s president and made the trek from Cypress for the drive and to present the award.

By Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR editor
Photo by Lt. James Fox, A.A., Public Information Officer,
Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center

Saving a life, or improving the quality of life, are the goals of those behind a bone marrow donor drive at the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center (CTC) in Galt.

CTC Sgt. Sharon Hoffer was recognized by Officers Give Hope during its Oct. 24 drive.

“The academies are the best places to meet the 18-44 age requirements to be a bone marrow donor,” said Cathy Stark, drive coordinator for Officers Give Hope. “Sharon Hoffer is a bundle of energy and she took this drive on with a passion. We believe it will be the largest drive we have ever done. So far, she has over 420 people signed up.”

According to Stark, the relationship started early between Officers Give Hope and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“John Whiteley (with the Orange Police Department) was diagnosed with leukemia and given six months to live,” Stark recalled of her relative. “He was healthy and fit so it was a real shock. We came together as a family and registered with a bone marrow drive. We went to the Los Angeles Police Department and they had a multi-agency group and held some drives.”

Stark’s husband, Dr. Larry Stark, was the Chief Dental Officer with CDCR, working in Southern California. He reached out to the warden at North Kern State Prison and sought permission to hold a bone marrow drive.

“In one day at NKSP, we registered 355 people,” she said. “That’s how we started with CDCR. Then another warden called and offered to hold a drive at California Correctional Institution near Tehachapi. Then we had a two-day drive at Wasco State Prison. From there, it just snowballed.”

Whiteley has lived far beyond his six-month diagnosis and is still active today, although he retired from the police department. He’s the past president of the board of directors for Officers Give Hope.

According to Stark, they’ve held a bone marrow drive in every CDCR institution in the state.

“It was a win-win for everyone,” she recalled. “My husband was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal from CDCR for his work with Officers Give Hope.”

To date, the group has registered more than 16,000 people to be bone marrow donors through the Be The Match registry. Officers Give Hope works with law enforcement and public safety agencies, mostly in Southern California. But through CDCR and the California Highway Patrol, they reach statewide.

“Most people don’t know about blood cancers,” she said. “Leukemia is the most common.”

CDCR holds bone marrow drives in Northern California on a regular basis, she said.

“BloodSource is our partner in all this,” she said. “They are able to handle bone marrow donations.”

According to Stark, sometimes, donations of stem cells will suffice.

“For a donation of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), the donor receives injections of drugs each day for four to five days. The drugs increase the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into the blood stream. The stem cells are collected from the blood stream through a process called apheresis. During apheresis, which is done at a blood center or hospital, your blood is removed through a sterile needle placed in a vein in one arm and returned through a sterile needle placed in a vein in the other arm,” the organization’s website states.

Editor’s Note: Some of the following websites may not be accessible from a CDCR computer.

What is Officers Give Hope?

According to their website, www.officersgivehope.org, Officers Give Hope is a multi-agency public safety effort dedicated to hosting marrow donor drives in the hopes of finding a match for those patients awaiting a life-saving transplant.

Officers Give Hope originally began in May of 2000 when Honolulu Police Captain Alvin Nishimura was diagnosed with leukemia and in need of a marrow transplant. He later succumbed to the disease.

What are blood cancers?

Learn more about the different forms of blood cancers at https://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/cancersbodylocation/hematologic

Resources for coping with cancer

Find resources for coping with cancer at https://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping

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