Warwick resident Susan Groh, locally known as a kind-hearted woman who is always willing to volunteer her time for good causes, such as serving on the board of Volunteers of Warwick Schools, coaching for the Warwick Fire Fighters Soccer Club (WFFSC) and helping out the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.
A few members of the organizations she is affiliated with, including the WFFSC, as well as Cub and Boy Scout Troops, are holding two fundraisers in her honor.
The first is a bone marrow donor drive this Saturday at Winslow Soccer Field off Main Avenue from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., while the second is a spaghetti dinner to assist with her medical costs at Greenwood Elementary School at 93 Sharon Street May 19 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Despite the frightening news, which she received in early February, she’s still thinking of others.
“If there’s not a match for me, there’s an opportunity to help so many other people in a similar circumstance,” Groh said, as marrow information is registered in a national log. “It’s a lifesaving thing.”
Finding out if anyone is a match is crucial, but a relatively simple process, said Groh’s husband, Jack. The couple, who have been married for 26 years, work together for the National Football League as consultants that develop environmental and community programs for the Super Bowl, as well as the Pro Bowl.
The first step in the donation process requires a cotton swab along the inside of a person’s cheek, which will be performed by the National Marrow Donor Program team. The program is operated by the Rhode Island Blood Center.
From there, health care professionals examine the swabs to see if they pair up with Groh’s cells. Once an identical match is found, the person makes a cell donation through a procedure that is similar to a blood donation and cells are then extracted from the blood. Bone drilling is not required.
Donors must provide their identifications and health insurance cards. While most health insurance plans cover the test, a fund is available to cover costs if needed.
Groh said the community outreach has lifted her spirits.
“My whole family just feels really blessed,” she said. “It’s such a nice group of friends and neighbors and they’ve been amazing. People just show up at the door with a casserole and offer to help. It’s wonderful.”
Jack, who has been the WFFSC coaching director for 16 years and has trained more than 500 coaches through the years, feels the same.
“All my kids have grown up with Warwick Fire Fighters so it’s really nice that they are doing this,” he said.
Susan and Jack have three children, Sarah, 23, a graduate of Leslie University in Cambridge; John Jr., 20, a junior at the New England Institute of Technology; and James, 16, who will be a junior at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School next year.
James will return to school after battling the H1N1 flu for two years. To his parents’ delight, he recently recovered.
“When the kids get sick, it’s even scarier than when you are sick yourself,” Groh said. “It was kind of tough and worrisome but he’s doing well now.”
Groh’s health also appears to be improving, as her doctors at Miriam Hospital in Providence recently informed her that her cell count is beginning to rise. She is grateful for all their assistance.
“The doctors that have been working with me have been really incredible,” she said. “I never imagined such compassionate care. They are helping my whole family through it all.”
If she is feeling well enough, Groh plans to attend the event on Saturday. Either way, her friends at the WFFSC, as well as the Cub Scouts, plan to unite for her.
“We’re rallying for them because they’ve done so much for others,” said Stephanie Meunier, secretary of the WFFSC. “They’ve done a lot for the community and we want to make this happen for them.”
For Stephanie’s husband, Ray, the Cub Master of Pack 51 Greenwood, the drive hits a personal chord. Twenty-three years ago, his mother was diagnosed with leukemia.
“An unrelated donor donated her marrow for my mom and that really educated us, so I became a bone marrow donor myself for a 13-year-old boy,” he said.
As for the spaghetti supper, there will be three seatings, with the first beginning at 4 p.m., the second starting at 5 and the last one kicking off at 6. Also, a take-out window will be open from 4 to 5:30. Take-out guests are required to supply their own containers.
Tickets are priced at $7 for adults 13 and older; $5 for seniors and children aged 4 to 12; while children 3 and under eat for free. The takeout charge is $7 per order.
Tickets, as well as more information about both events, can be found at bethematchforsusan.blogspot.com. Tickets can also be purchased with cash or check at Winslow Field May 5 and May 12 from 9 to 11 a.m. A 50/50 raffle, as well as a silent auction, will be held at the dinner.
At the moment, Jack is happy Susan has remained positive through the heartache.
“It’s one of those things that changes your life overnight, but she’s responding well to treatment and keeping an unbelievable attitude,” he said. “She’s very courageous and brave.”
If anyone is interested in volunteering at the events, contact Stephanie Meunier at email@example.com.
For more information about the cheek swab, visit marrow.org.