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Ad campaign benefits Hawaii Cord Blood Bank

By Erika Engle


Hawaii Cord Blood Bank might just become a household name, now that it will be the focus of the Ad 2 Honolulu 2010-2011 pro-bono public service campaign. Ad 2 Honolulu, itself a nonprofit, has been providing marketing campaigns for Hawaii nonprofit organizations since 1969 and has repeatedly won national recognition in the process.

Once notified of its selection, "there was a whole lot of screaming going on," said Dr. Randal Wada. In 1998, he co-founded the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank with geneticist Jana Hall.

"I've seen the websites of some of the places they've worked with, a YouTube thing on the campaign they did with Kanu, and holy cow! That factored into the screaming," Wada said.

Some 77 nonprofits applied this year. Often one organization will apply for several years before it is selected. "We really encourage people to reapply," said Maya King, Ad 2 Honolulu public service co-chairwoman. However, this was Hawaii Cord Blood Bank's first at-bat.

"They really just stood out. They really provide a unique service. It's a simple procedure, a simple concept, but no one really knows about them," King said.

"Our goal is to help grow their donor base and volunteers, as well as clarify how they are different from private services ... and hopefully save lives, if we can," she said.

Ad 2 Honolulu campaigns have been valued at around $1 million. Ad 2 presents its finished work to the public via donated print space, air time and outdoor advertising -- such as signs in malls -- and other venues, such as the Internet.

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The campaign will be unveiled in April, King said, but there may be an earlier push to boost the number of volunteer staff members from what Wada quantified as "two and a half, plus me."

HCBB collects and preserves umbilical cord blood from registered donors at no charge, upon the births of their babies. The cord blood is then used to treat life-threatening diseases including leukemia and lymphoma, and non-cancerous disorders as well. Cord blood from Hawaii has been shipped around the world to help save the lives of dozens of people of all ages.

A very small amount of blood is collected, "but those cells have such regenerative capacity that they can totally repopulate the patient's bone marrow and restore both the immune system and all the cells that make up red blood," Wada said.

Umbilical cord blood is stem-cell rich and its collection is non-controversial. It is done post-partum; "the baby's not even connected to it anymore at the time," Wada said. Collection is also pain-free and risk-free for the mother.

"HCBB has a serious lack of awareness in the local community and is often confused with private cord blood centers," King said.

There are no private cord blood banks in Hawaii, but they nevertheless pose a competitive problem for the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank, Wada said. HCBB has no marketing budget.

Private blood banks promote storage, for a fee, of a baby's cord blood should it be needed by the baby or a sibling for later treatment.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at

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