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Bone-marrow drive for local scout

‘How simple it is to get screened and save lives’

Posted: December 9, 2008 10:33 p.m.
Updated: December 10, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Eagle Scout Justin Wilson, left, organized a bone-marrow drive for his life-long friend Nate Sparks.

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What would you do if you were an Eagle Scout?

Not only do they learn to tie complex knots and start fires without matches, but they also fight to save lives.

Justin Wilson, a local Boy Scout, chose to fight for Nate Sparks.

Wilson organized the "Nate Sparks Bone Marrow Drive" at Canyon High School on Saturday to help his longtime friend find a match and aid him in his battle with leukemia.

Wilson chose the bone- marrow drive as his Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project to show people "how simple it is to get screened and save lives."

"It doesn't take much," said Ben Hopkins, a Boy Scouts leader.

Although membership in the National Bone Marrow Registry is a long-term commitment, it is an easy way to help those in need of a match, like local cancer victims such as Sparks and Bob Corrales as well as diagnosed Americans nationwide.

Many of those who attended the Sparks screening wanted to give their support any way possible.

"The Eagle Scouts showed us how easy it is to get screened: four swabs you swirl in your mouth," volunteer Clarence Scherich said. "If that's all it takes to help somebody, it's certainly a sacrifice any of us can make."

Stacey Ranhofer, who has no connection to Sparks, heard about the drive and decided to participate.

"It touched me," Ranhofer said. "God bless them. I hope they find a cure."

The drive drew a great number of supporters, and Vivian Abernathy of City of Hope proclaimed it to be an "amazing turnout."

In only the first hour, more than 100 donors took four generous swabs of saliva each.

"Santa Clarita comes out stronger [for bone-marrow drives] than any other community I have seen," Abernathy said.

Such benevolent support from the Santa Clarita Valley is a great inspiration and hope for Sparks and his family. "I think they will find a match, I really do," said Nate's father, Jerry Sparks.

During the screening, Sparks visited with family, friends and participants, laughing and joking as usual. Throughout Sparks' treatment, despite the difficult journey, he has maintained an optimistic attitude and is living as normal a life as possible.

"What amazes me is that Nate is still doing his schoolwork," said Lisa Hillquist, a family friend.

Nate looked pointedly at his mom and said, "Wonder why?"

Marilyn Sparks, Nate's mother, shared her favorite "treatment story" about Nate.

While delirious he talked "about driving down Sand Canyon in a red convertible with his dog, Buddy, whose head was sticking out the window."

Through difficult times, the Sparks family preserves its lifestyle, filled will optimism, love and laughter.
"Nate has inspired me with his positive attitude, even throughout painful treatments," Jerry Sparks said.

Nate's outlook on life and his situation has inspired his family, Justin Wilson, the Eagle Scouts and the Santa Clarita community.

"I thank everybody for everything they have done," Marilyn Sparks said. "But most of all, thank you to everybody for your faith and prayers."

"Words cannot express our gratitude," Jerry Sparks said.

Megan Scherich is a Canyon High School junior.

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