A schedule that includes showing up at a Starz Denver Film Festival screening, watching a documentary, hearing the symphony, then capping the evening off by potentially saving a life is no small feat. But that’s what happened last night.
The joint venture between the film festival and the Colorado Symphony screened More to Live For, a dramatic look at three leukemia patients and their search for a bone marrow donor match. After the film, the audience was treated to the first-ever Michael Brecker tribute concert featuring Randy Brecker, Michael’s brother, Chris Botti, and the Symphony. Michael Brecker, whose story was featured in the film, was a world-renowned saxophonist and multiple Grammy Award winner. He lost his battle to leukemia before a match was found. His wife, Susan Brecker, teamed up with James Chippendale—who won his battle against leukemia—to produce the film. “Whether we show this film to eight or 80 people at a time, all we need is for one person to be the right match and a life can be saved,” Chippendale says. He estimated that throughout their most recent film tour, more than 2,000 people have signed up on their bone marrow donor registry. At last count at Denver’s screening, around 120 people had joined the list.
Kicking off the night, Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl, who has publically battled throat cancer, told the audience the impact cancer had on his own life and visits he made to the bone marrow ward at Denver’s Children’s Hospital. “I had always considered myself a tough guy,” Karl says. “When you are going through radiation or chemotherapy on a daily basis with the same people, I definitely wasn’t the toughest guy in the room.”
One of the biggest challenges in building the bone marrow registry is the stigma and fear the general public has about the related procedures. A cotton swab to the cheek and a signature gets you on the registry. If you were called upon to donate, technology now allows people to give stem cells in a procedure much like donating plasma, instead of the traditional bone marrow extraction. “Transplants have scared away a lot of people,” Karl says. “All we are asking for is blood. I want to write a letter to President Obama and ask him to ask everyone to do this, almost make it mandatory. I would love to win an NBA championship, but I think saving someone’s life is more important.”
—Photo courtesy of Amanda Campell Photography