PEEKSKILL — A young city resident got a boost of support from a longtime Peekskill Fire Department member Sunday when the firefighter swam three miles across the Hudson River in his honor.
Lt. John Berlow participates annually in the Hudson River Swim for Life to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When he heard about young Kyle Markes, an 11-year-old Peekskill resident battling battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia he pledged to swim for Kyle and displayed his name on his arm for the duration of his morning swim, according to a press release from the city.
“While I was in the water the thought of Kyle fighting kept popping into my mind,” Berlow said in the release. “Knowing the strength a little man like that has to have on a regular basis was encouragement enough to keep me going.” Berlow later sent Kyle Markes a photo of his swim with an invitation to visit the Peekskill Fire Station for a tour.
Berlow’s swim coincided with a “Save a Life, Be a Match” bone marrow drive held for Kyle the same day, hosted by the Health Education Ministry at Mount Olive Baptist Church.
Kyle’s mother, Jakqueline McLean-Markes, said her son had been in remission for a short period when his family learned that his cancer had aggressively returned leaving a bone marrow transplant as the only option for his survival. With no one in the immediate family as a match, they turned to the national registry of bone marrow donors to save his life.
“When we heard Kyle’s diagnosis and learned about our treatment options, we were surprised to learn that African-Americans are underrepresented on the donor registry. We know our son is less likely to find a match,” said McLean-Markes. The drive was an effort to help Kyle, and to register more African-Americans to provide greater opportunities for those affected by blood cancers, she added.
Every day thousands of patients search for a bone marrow match, but only four out of 10 patients are lucky enough to receive a transplant, according to Delete Blood Cancer, an international bone marrow registry and advocacy organization. Visit www.deletebloodcancer.org to learn more about the bone marrow donation process.