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Florida Boy Named CNN Heroes Viewers' Choice Winner

12-year-old recognized for recruiting more than 5,000 volunteer marrow


MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Florida boy who set out earlier this year to add donors of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to the National Marrow Donor Program(R) (NMDP) Registry was honored yesterday as the CNN Heroes Viewers' Choice Winner.

Pat Pedraja, a 12-year-old leukemia patient from Palm Harbor, recruited more than 5,000 donors to the NMDP Registry in just three months. On December 6, CNN recognized his extraordinary achievements at the "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" -- a live global telecast that honored ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Over the past two months, viewers voted for their favorite CNN Heroes in six categories: Championing Children, Community Crusader, Defending the Planet, Fighting for Justice, Medical Marvel and Young Wonder. Pat's efforts to recruit marrow donors helped advance him to the final round, where he garnered the most votes among all viewers' choice finalists. CNN viewers in 93 countries nominated more than 7,000 heroes.

"I'm excited to be a CNN Hero, and am happy the award will help show the world the importance of being a marrow donor. Marrow donors are heroes, too, because they save people's lives," Pedraja said. "I want to keep recruiting donors until everyone who needs a transplant can find a match."

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Pat is undergoing chemotherapy to treat his disease. Even though he did not need a marrow transplant for his cancer treatment, when he learned minorities like himself make up less than a third of the NMDP Registry and have a more difficult time finding a match, he wanted to help.

Pat turned his hair-loss into an asset by leasing advertising space on his head in a series of eBay auctions. He used the money to underwrite a cross-country journey in a rented RV to recruit more minority donors. Under the banner, "One Child's Dream: Driving for Donors," he and his family visited 30 cities in three months, raising $100,000 and recruiting more than 5,000 people to the NMDP Registry. Pat plans to tour again next summer. More information about Pat and "Driving for Donors" can be found online at

About the National Marrow Donor Program

The NMDP facilitates unrelated marrow and cord blood transplants as a single point of access for a long-standing collaborative network of national and international leading medical facilities in marrow and cord blood transplantation. The NMDP connects patients, doctors, donors and researchers to the resources they need to help more people live longer and healthier lives. For more information call 1 (800) MARROW-2 or visit Join online at

SOURCE National Marrow Donor Program
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