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Fort Lee Teen Still Seeking Lifesaving Match

Yanine Lopez and her daughter Briana are far from finished fighting. Photo Credit: Bri Strong Facebook and Courtesy of Yanine Lopez
Participants at an earlier drive do the simple cheek swab to join the national registry and potentially be a match for Briana Lopez and others. Photo Credit: Bri Strong Facebook
Briana Lopez poses with Mayor Mark Sokolich at an event last year. Photo Credit: Bri Strong Facebook

FORT LEE, N.J. – Community members are again rallying around the Lopez family of Fort Lee.

Briana, 12, was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2016.

The family is again teaming up with Be the Match and the Icla da Silva Foundation to host a donor drive, this Saturday, March 25.

"We're still desperately searching for a match," Max Almenas told Daily Voice. He's director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at Church of the Madonna.

He's been intensely involved with the family's quest since coming to one of the drives. "I did the swab, which was really easy, and I stayed, volunteered to greet people," he said in an earlier interview.

"From that point forward, I just fell in love with the family, and their effort to save their daughter's life. I have a 16-year-old son, and I can't imagine going through this."

It takes just a few minutes to become a donor: a bit of paperwork and a cheek swab. Would-be donors must be between 18 and 44.

People of all ethnicities are encouraged to join the registry, but Hispanic people are more likely to be a match for Briana in particular.

Hispanic people currently make up less than five percent of the potential donors in the registry.

The family's journey has been one of ups and downs. Two possible donors were found last year. But doctors ruled one out and the other backed out at the last minute.

Yanine then willingly did a bone marrow transplant for her daughter, and the transplant seemed to work at first.

But parents are only half-matches for their children, and last fall Briana developed new tumors and is again undergoing chemo.

RELATED: Amid Leukemia Setback, Fort Lee Family Organizes Match Registry Events

The community – including Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, the police department and area schools – has been very supportive, through donor drives and other events.

This drive will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lewis F. Cole Middle School, 467 Stillwell Ave., in Fort Lee. If you can't attend, you can also send off for a kit here.

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