Actress Zoe Saldana promotes bone marrow donations

Zoe Saldana – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Movie actress Zoe Saldana, who is in Cayman for this weekend’s CayFilm festival, visited staff and contractors at a South Sound construction site on Tuesday to promote bone marrow donation registration.

At Vela, a Davenport Development project in South Sound, the “Star Trek” and “Avatar” actress was joined by her husband Marco Perego, her sister Cisley Saldana Nazario, and members of the Flowers family. They attended an informational meeting hosted by Davenport and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society to outline details of the campaign to encourage people to register for the Caribbean Bone Marrow Registry.

Ms. Saldana, who heard about the Cancer Society’s outreach through the Flowers family, decided to help promote the campaign by making an appearance. The actress has remained close to the family since starring in director and screenwriter Frank E. Flowers’s film “Haven.”

“Just to know that as a Caribbean woman I can come and lend myself and spread out information and knowledge of how important it is for us to join a registry like the Caribbean Bone Marrow Registry, it gives our people a bigger chance of survival if they were to need it,” she said.

At the site, workers heard from Tash Macfayden, who told of her experience with bone marrow disease, and from Jennifer Weber of the Cancer Society, who explained the simple procedure to become a bone marrow donor and its importance.

Dara Flowers Burke and her brother Frank E. Flowers took to the mic to speak about their mother, Eve Flowers, who passed away this year after a year-long battle with leukemia. Mr. Flowers donated bone marrow for his mother.

“You think about that in this day and age, with all the technology we have, all the resources we have, and you still can’t find donor matches because we are from the Caribbean,” said Ms. Flowers Burke. “I am imploring each one of you to come out and get registered. The life you might save might be your very daughters or your own sons, or who you work with.”

Ms. Saldana told the Cayman Compass, “We knew their mom very well and we were super supportive throughout the process and her struggle with leukemia.

“We’re very close friends with the family.”

Ms. Saldana will be attending this weekend’s film festival, which will feature a 10th anniversary celebration of the release of “Haven” at the Cayman International Film Festival on Friday.

“We also came because my husband is an artist, he’s a painter, and he has been speaking very closely with a lot of the Caymanian local artists through the National Gallery,” she said, “so as artists, we want to give much as possible, and knowing that we are Caribbean people, it is our duty to do so.”

Ms. Saldana frequently visits Cayman. “Ever since I did ‘Haven,’ I met the Flowers family through Frankie, we became best friends and now [we’re] here anytime we can,” she said.

“Not only me – my mother, my sisters, our kids, our grandparents – we are island people, and kind of neighbors, because I still have 80 percent of my family in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and any chance I get to come to the Caribbean, I take it.”

The actress said she is not yet a registered bone marrow donor, but she is now motivated to register.

Wayne McKarkle of Cayman Drywallers, who attended the meeting Tuesday, said he would also register.

“I’m interested because I’m a father, so it would be nice if I could help to save a life. Who’s to tell? It could be my own child,” he said.

Paul Pearson of Davenport, one of the first organizations to host a Cancer Society informational event for its staff on the subject of bone marrow donations, said, “Very simply, it’s the right thing to do because there aren’t enough registered people for bone marrow transplants in the Caribbean.

“So, if it’s a simple case of having a swab in the mouth, and the Flowers are [covering costs], why not? If it could save a life, why wouldn’t we do it?”

A private donation and the proceeds of the recent Flowers Sea Swim raised US$75,000 for the Cancer Society’s Eve Flowers Bone Marrow Donation Fund. The Cancer Society hopes to triple the number of people who are registered as bone marrow donors.

The Caribbean Bone Marrow Registry was established in 2014 with the goal of getting more people of Caribbean heritage registered as potential donors.

For more information about the Caribbean Bone Marrow Registry, contact the Cayman Islands Cancer Society on 949-7618 or email [email protected]

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