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A Decade of Donating — Lani Kai’s 10th annual blood and bone marrow drive takes place Saturday

By Staff | Jul 28, 2016

Kenny and his sisters, Kaitlin and Kasey, during last year’s blood and bone marrow drive at the Lani Kai. Stop by Saturday for the 10th annual drive, with live music, prizes and giveaways for all donors, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Photo courtesy KATHY CONIDARIS.

The 10th annual Kenny Conidaris Blood and Bone Marrow Drive will be taking place at the Lani Kai Island Resort Saturday, July 30, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all of the Southwest Florida community is encouraged to attend. Look forward to a great beach day with plenty of raffles, prizes, food, drink, music and more.

Now 23 years old, since Kenny’s Severe Aplastic Anemia diagnosis almost 11 years ago, his grandfather, Bob Conidaris, owner of the Lani Kai Island Resort, along with the Lee Memorial Health System, have organized a massive, annual blood and bone marrow drive, in the hopes of finding a bone marrow match for Kenny and other young children like him, to help relieve them of this rare condition.

Back when he was first diagnosed, members of his family had their marrow tested to see if any were a match, but sadly, none were. The Conidaris’ are still hoping someone out there matches his marrow, so this young man can finally get on the path to full recovery.

“This really has turned into a big event over the years. It started with trying to find a match for Kenny, but more and more have come to show their support of helping the community as a whole and Bob Conidaris is sure to continue hosting this drive to help as many as we can and that’s what it’s all about,” said Larry Puccia, general manager of the island resort.

“Plans are going great, and we are right on schedule for our 10th anniversary drive. Everyone is very excited about this year’s event. Donations are rolling in!” said Kathy Conidaris, Kenny’s mother and lead organizer of the drive. And with the tragic shooting that took place right here in our hometown, Kenny and Kathy urge locals now more than ever to help out and donate blood during the drive.

Photo courtesy KATHY CONIDARIS.

“In times like these, the need for blood donations is more important than ever,” Kathy said. “We never know when tragedy will strike. Between Orlando and especially now that it’s hit in our backyard it’s scarier than ever.”

For those who haven’t yet become a bone marrow registrar, it’s very simple. You fill out a form and have the inside of your mouth swabbed. That’s it. From there, you’ll enter the national bone marrow registry, which has more than 10 million potential donors.

If you’re already signed up on the national bone marrow registry during the annual blood and bone marrow drive in the past, you’re still encouraged to come by, donate blood, have some fun and support a good local cause. There will be plenty of prizes, food, drinks, music and more to keep you entertained throughout the afternoon.

“As usual, there will be lots of food, prizes and giveaways Saturday,” Kathy said. “We’re having a pirate theme this year and it will be very fun. We are doing a scavenger hunt on the beach with prizes, also. Everyone who donates that day will get a T-shirt and will be entered into a drawing for more prizes.”

The Lani Kai will also have a nice spread of food offered for donors that day, as well as pizza, donated by Jet’s Pizza, for lunch and a lot more snacks and other tasty treats.

“Giveaways will include gift cards of all sorts, bowling passes, excursions for dolphin tours, fishing trips, weekend stays at beach resorts, golfing, and much more!” Kathy eagerly stated.

All donors will also receive a free wellness check-up, including blood pressure, temperature, iron count, pulse and cholesterol screening.

In the meantime, Kenny continues chugging along. He turns 23 Thursday, and recently moved up to North Carolina to expand on his education in the medical field, which also helps getting back and forth to his specialists’ quality care at Duke University for his regular treatments.

As Kathy lets us know, “Kenny has been doing well. His million-dollar chemo seems to really keep him going. He still receives his chemo every other week, and has some pain, but this seems to be the new norm for him,” she said. “He still puts a smile on his face and keeps pushing on. He’s a brave, strong young man who will always keep fighting to survive. It’s been 10 years since first diagnosed with his rare blood disorder. Considering they only gave him a 30 percent chance of living in 2006, I’d say we’ve come a long way. I’m very proud of him. North Carolina is his safe place. He feels like Duke saved him and absolutely loves it up there. He will be traveling every chance he gets to come back home to Florida where his family is. Family is everything to Kenny and hopes someday to have one of his own.”

For more information about the upcoming drive and how you can help, call Kathy Conidaris, 239-851-0701, or the Lani Kai, 239-463-3111.