Sunderland shoppers have thrown their support behind a campaign which could help save the life of a city schoolgirl.
Almost 300 people have signed up as stem cell donors after they were touched by the plight of seven-year-old Chloe Gray, from Silksworth.
The Plains Farm Academy pupil has the rare blood disorder Diamond Blackfan Anaemia (DBA) and undergoes blood transfusions to keep well, but is now in need of a donation because her body is beginning to build antibodies against it.
In a bid to find her a donor – and boost the register which could also help others – her family have joined forces with the charity DKMS to gather more people to add their details to the list.
The Bridges hosted the first recruitment event, with visitors offering mouth swabs which will help experts create a DNA profile, which can then be used to check if they are a match for someone on their waiting list.
The event was backed and promoted by the Bradley Lowery Foundation, which shared the details of the event via its Facebook page.
Chloe’s mum Francesca Bowser, 27, who is married to Craig, 33, and also mum to Freddie Bowser, two, Millie Gray, 10, and stepson Tye Bowser, 12, was on hand to help with the event and answer people’s questions.
She said: “It had an amazing response with just under 300 people registering so far after people had seen it in the news and some people came down especially to do it.
“It means everything to us to know that people care, especially local people who want to help.”
Porsha Nunes-Brown, donor recruitment manager for DKMS UK was also on hand to chat to people as they signed up.
It means everything to us to know that people care, especially local people who want to help.Francesca Bowser
She said: “People have been saying they want to do anything that helps Chloe and her family and others in a similar situation after they’ve heard about her appeal.
“I think people have been surprised how easy it is to register as a potential donor and it’s all part of educating people and raising awareness about the process.
“They have really wanted to make a difference.”
Chloe had her first transfusion while she was in the womb and has been in and out of hospital all her life.
Her condition means her body does not produce red blood cells, with checks of the register so far failing to find a donor who could give their matching stem cells – which could make her better.
Further recruitment events are in the pipeline across the city to give people the chance to get involved.
One is to be hosted with the help of Chloe’s school at the end of this month, with the finer details still being confirmed.
In addition to support from Wearsiders, her family has also been backed by celebrities including Sir Tim Rice and actress Julie Graham, who has appeared in Shetland and Benidorm.
Chloe’s family are running the #aheroforchloe campaign online to help spread the word about the register, with the Facebook page Chloe’s DBA Fight #aheroforchloe set up to keep followers up to date with her progress and share the message about the appeal.
It is open to people aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health.
Anyone interested in signing up who has had a chronic or serious condition now or in the past, or take medication regularly, can chat with a member of the DKMS UK team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can register online via dkms.org.uk.