Bombardier Blood in Utah!

When our team was dividing up who will represent Save One Life at various showings of “Bombardier Blood,” the incredible movie about Chris Bombardier’s Seven Summits Quest, I jumped at going to Utah. Utah is one of my favorite places: drenched in southwest colors of red and yellow, with soaring mesas and fins, and deep, rich canyons, it’s an adventurer’s dream. It seemed to fit the message of the movie, too: go out. See the world. Climb, hike, walk, smell fresh air, dream, do.

After spending a week exploring Antelope Island, Moab and Zion, I headed north on I-15 and reached Salt Lake City. The Utah Hemophilia Foundation’s executive director Scott Muir was there to greet me. And not only greet me, but to give me the gift of his paintings, bound as photos in a hardcover book! All the paintings are of Zion National Park, which he well knows I adore. Scott is a talented photographer and artist.

And apparently, executive director! We had a huge turnout for the event. About 150 or more families arrived to socialize, have dinner, enter raffles and engage with the various pharma and specialty pharmacy vendors. I was so happy to meet up with long time friends, colleagues and Facebook friends (some of whom I have not yet met in person). There were so many children, and while you might think their presence might disrupt a movie, the children were as good as gold.

I gave a few words before the movie started, and let the audience know this amazing stat: out of the 108 billion people who have ever walked this earth, less than 500 have ever accomplished all Seven Summits. I’m not sure you can easily even measure that! The audience was hushed as the movie began, and for 90 minutes, were riveted to the screens.

Laurie Kelley and Scott Muir

After the movie, one 14-year-old asked me a very leading question: how did Chris keep his factor warm on the mountain? “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” I replied. His eyes lit up! Chris must seem like a hero to so many, and thus, out of reach. But he is very approachable. The young teen was thrilled to get Chris’s email address, and I had to ask him: was he interested one day in doing mountain climbs? He nodded his head vigorously and smiled! Come join us, I invited him!

And coincidentally, Save One Life will be hosting a three-day hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2020!

Bombardier Blood is about making dreams come true, and if you can see it at your local chapter, please do! You may believe anything is possible.

Thanks to Utah Hemophilia Foundation for hosting this movie, and to all who sponsored the event. Special call out to Octapharma, which sponsored Chris’s last two and most expensive climbs, and for daring to take a risk on a young man with a big dream. Sometimes the riskiest adventures yield the greatest joys and successes!

Bombardier Blood was created by Believe Ltd, and is now produced by Alex Borstein. It showcases not only Chris’s climbs but also the disparity of treatment in bleeding disorder between developed and developing countries, being addressed through the work of Save One Life.

Honoring a Little Boy and a Great Man

Last week, I traveled to California, for an exclusive showing of the wonderful movie “Bombardier Blood” to employees of NuFactor, the hemophilia distribution program of FFF Enterprises. We gathered at the Omni Resort in Carlsbad, where Chris Bombardier and I marveled at the brilliant blue skies, warm sunshine and swaying palm trees. The movie was warmly received; there was a standing O before it even ended, in honor of Chris’s achievements! But the best moment for me was being able to tell employees the gratitude I have for their founder and CEO, Patrick M. Schmidt.

Laurie Kelley and
Patrick M. Schmidt

Patrick and I have a long history, meeting on August 12,1995, when he was attending a business meeting in Boston. He called me the previous week, out of the blue—I had no idea who he was. He said he had heard of me, saw my books, admired my work and independent stance (I was not part of an HTC, specialty pharmacy, manufacturer or nonprofit. Back then, you were one of these). He was just entering the hemophilia community, and wanted to pick my brain. So we met over a cup of “chowda” in downtown Boston. I found Patrick sincere, eager to get involved, and respectful. And he remains so to this day.

During lunch, he asked me a question that reverberates today: What can I do to make a difference?

It happened that I was still reeling from the murder the previous summer of a beautiful little 5-year-old boy. On a hot summer day in August 1994, I was leaning against my kitchen counter and opened the Boston Globe. The headlines screamed that a little boy from Easthampton, Massachusetts had been murdered. According to his stepmother, some strangers entered the house a few days before, on a quiet Saturday, smothered the child with a pillow, hit the stepmother in the head, and left the baby in the crib unharmed. Nothing was taken. There were no footprints, fingerprints and no one saw anything.

The greatest shock was that I knew this child. He had hemophilia. His grandmother, Jennie Gosselin, had been sending me photos and stories to publish in a children’s newsletter I once had, called “Factor Fun.” The headlines dominated for the week, until the stepmother was arrested for premeditated murder. She remains in prison to this day, and will be for life. The reason she killed this child? His medical bills were too expensive, and she wanted another child but couldn’t afford one.

This touched Patrick deeply. That a child would be murdered because his medical bills were too expensive was abhorrent. Also, Eric was the same age as his daughter, Natalie. I can see even now the look of horror and dismay on his face as he considered all this. Did he want to make a difference? I suggested a scholarship in Eric’s name, so that he would not be forgotten. Patrick immediately approved. The scholarship is now in its 23rd year! It has helped hundreds of students attend college.

Eric Dostie with grandpa George

I remained friends with Eric’s grandmother right up until she passed away two years ago. Before she moved to North Carolina, I would visit her in Easthampton and we would stop by Eric’s grave. She was forever grateful to a man she never met for his act of compassion and generosity.

If you are a US student with a bleeding disorder in your family, you can apply for the Eric Dostie Memorial Scholarship. This year’s application is closed, but mark it on your calendar for the fall, when you can apply again. And check out our scholarship page on our website, which lists even more you can apply to.

Many thanks to Patrick M. Schmidt for his friendship, mentorship and support. The movie “Bombardier Blood” showcases Chris’s climbs, but also the work we do at Save One Life. Patrick, by the way, is our number one sponsor, supporting 180 children who live in poverty. And he is our top donor. He believes in giving children a chance in life.

He has changed so many lives around the world… including mine.

United by Blood

Madonna Smith, executive director of Oregon Chapter, adopted a child with hemophilia into our “family”

Well I’m ready for a rest! Last week I was in Orlando at NHF’s 70th annual meeting, and last night, at the New England Hemophilia Association’s Red Tie Soiree in Worcester, Massachusetts. And while there is so much happening with new products, with gene therapy coming closer, new programs for our community, and the spectacular movie Bombardier Blood ready for viewing nationwide, the overriding feeling I have after these major events is… this is family. We are truly a family, united by blood.

With the California gang!

As I’ve been in the community for over 30 years now, I’ve come to know so many people, and have watched as babies have grown to young adults, starting families of their own, some also with bleeding disorders. Our family grows, and grows older! My friends and I, all young moms and dads when we came into this family, are now in our 60s, looking back at the incredible path this bleeding disorder family has traveled together.

One path literally is the one that led to the movie Bombardier Blood, which debuted last Saturday in Orlando. To a standing room only crowd of over 500 people at 7:15 am, the Octapharma-sponsored event and movie about Chris Bombardier’s epic Everest summit brought laughter and tears to all. It is a stunning film, directed by Patrick James Lynch—whose name you all should know as well as Chris’s by now! These two young men with hemophilia have skyrocketed to fame with their achievement. It makes us, the older moms and dads, incredibly proud. We all kind of feel like they are “our” sons, or like our sons. Sons of our community, doing daring things for our community. 

Go Here to See Photos from NHF’s 70th Annual Meeting!

I was honored and fortunate to travel the actual path to Everest base camp with Chris and his wife Jess, and share in part of that historic journey. All the while, I felt like the mother I am, watching out over both of them (as if Chris needed it!). Viewing the movie that morning brought back so many memories and feelings of that journey in May 2017.

So much of the NHF meeting was connecting, with old friends and new, with families in need and families who can share and give. And at the final night we listened to music and danced the night away. While blood unites us as family, music unites us in joy.

I wish everyone could attend NHF’s or HFA’s annual meeting, though I know it’s improbable for most. The meetings are often held in the same spots: Dallas, Chicago,

Laurie Kelley with Derek Nelson, everyone’s favorite

Anaheim, Orlando, San Diego. You’ll never see one in Boston—too expensive. Not everyone can afford to go away by air and stay at hotels. While there are scholarships for first-time families, it sadly still leaves many in our family on the fringe.

Laurie Kelley with Kevin Shaughnessy, who she met when he was 12!

And that’s why we have local chapters and state bleeding disorder organizations. Does your state or region have one? The New England Hemophilia Association has become one of the best run organizations in the US. It wasn’t always that way. As we heard last night, when Charlie Dougherty, who served as treasurer and who passed away earlier this year, found when he joined, it was poorly run and $22,000 in the red. He straightened it up, but it took Rich Pezzillo, a young man with hemophilia, to rocket it into the highest level, and not just by squaring away financials. Rich has breathed new life into NEHA, infusing it with passion and commitment like never before. I confess I never donated to NEHA, even though I’ve lived in New England all my life. But with Rich’s leadership and his crackerjack team, we are all excited to give and participate once again. Last night proved it. I sponsored three tables and invited the team at Save One Life to come and experience the joy of this family reunion, and they had a blast, amazed by the comradery and caring.

In many ways, I find I can enjoy our bleeding disorder family simply by being local. So there’s hope for you too, to join this family by seeking out your local organization. Is it active? Does it have programs? NEHA has programs every month, sometimes every weekend! Does your chapter do a fundraising walk? Have a women’s or teen program? Is there someone to call to learn how to get involved?

I would really urge you to do everything you can to participate. Bleeding disorders can throw a curve ball at you at any time, as life can too. This family, this “Wicked Strong Family” as we say in Boston, is here to help. These friends have become more than friends—they are truly family.

And when I attended the wake last Friday of my first cousin’s husband, who died unexpectedly at only age 61, you realize how family is always family, no matter what. I visited with my cousins, who I rarely see anymore, except on Facebook. We were playmates as children, but life gets busy, the family gets bigger and reunions consist mostly of funerals now. Still, we have history and we are united by blood. It was good to see everyone again; I still love them all.

See Photos from NHF’s 70th Annual Meeting here!

Rising star: Rich Pezzillo with Laurie Kelley

We’ve lost a lot of people in this community this year and as life goes on will continue to lose more. It’s at this time that family comes together: whether nationally, or locally. Find out more about your local chapter; meet your hemophilia/bleeding disorder family. Get involved; give of your time or support. We are all united by blood, and can create the family we need by connecting, caring, sharing and loving.

And a little celebrating and dancing doesn’t hurt either!

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