Every year, millions of people struggle to win the fight against blood cancer. DKMS is an organization that began with one girl’s heart-wrenching experience of watching her mother fight and lose that battle. Katharina Harf was just thirteen when her mother, Mechtild, was diagnosed with acute leukemia. Mechtild was told she could be saved by a bone marrow transplant, but there were only 3,000 donors in Germany at the time.
Mechtild’s husband and Katharina’s father, Peter Harf worked tirelessly to find a donor, recruiting nearly 70,000 donors in one year and forming DKMS with his wife’s doctor at the time, Dr. Gerhard Ehninger. They knew that other families and patients needed the same access to donors, and wanted to make that information accessible to all.
Mechtild was beaten by her blood cancer, but now her daughter, Katharina, works to make sure others don’t have to lose their loved ones in the same way. DKMS has a registered bone marrow donor list of 3.3 million people who have provided more than 32,000 transplants worldwide. Katharina is its Chief Inspiration Officer.
In 2004, Katharina expanded DKMS into the U.S. and established recruitment programs and educational campaigns throughout the country. Each year, DKMS holds a gala to further raise awareness and money for the cause, which is organized by New York socialites such as Lauren and Andres Santo Domingo (we previously profiled Andres Santo Domingo). This past year, Heidi Klum was honored for her efforts in raising awareness.
The DKMS website offers information about bone cancer as well as fundraising opportunities and a section to register to get swabbed. Each swab costs $65 to register, and yet DKMS does not require new donors to pay and therefore relies on donations from the public to continue functioning.