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Barbara and Griff Lewis invest $600K in transplant research.

Jimmy and Meredith met their freshman year of college. “They’re best friends,” Jimmy’s mom Barbara says. “When they look at each other, there is true respect—they’re just a special couple.”

Thirteen months after Jimmy and Meredith’s wedding, Jimmy called his parents, Barbara and Griff, to tell them Meredith had been diagnosed with leukemia. “They had just been on this amazing trip and Jimmy had started a new job—he was absolutely devasted,” Barbara shares.

Things happened very quickly from there. Meredith and Jimmy would spend the next several months preparing for Meredith to receive a bone marrow transplant, Meredith’s only hope for a cure. “Jimmy never cried happy tears as a child,” Barbara says, “but when they started the IV for Meredith’s marrow transplant, he cried like a baby,” tears of joy and hope that Meredith would be okay.

But, after transplant, Meredith faced her next battle as she suffered from severe graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). “The side effects of the treatments were difficult,” Barbara recalls. “But Jimmy stood by her side the whole time. As bad as it got, they both got stronger together.” 

It was Meredith’s battle with GVHD that inspired Barbara and Griff to give a generous $600,000 gift to the Amy Strelzer Manasevit Research Program. The Amy Program supports emerging leaders in the field of transplant research focused on the treatment and prevention of post-cellular-therapy complications, like GVHD. “We’re hoping someone could identify potential GVHD risk factors, so other patients and families don’t have to go through what Meredith and Jimmy have,” says Barbara.

Barbara and Griff realize that while there are no guarantees in research, without investment, there will never be advancement. “At this point we don’t have any grandkids and we’ve been frugal our whole lives,” says Griff.  “After seeing what Meredith went through, and what Be The Match is working on, if our money can help someone else, it will be well worth it.” Barbara adds, “Be The Match saved Meredith—but also saved Jimmy.”

Barbara encourages people to pay it forward. “Think about how far medicine has come—what others have invested to get us here. If you’re grateful, this is a way to say, ‘thank you’.” 

But Barbara insists it’s not all about money. “We’re fortunate to be able to help through financial support, but that’s not the only way,” she says. “Find a way to give back to what matters to you—whether it’s through time, talent or financial resources—to pay it forward, give back and show gratitude.”

To learn more about how you can make an impact like Barbara and Griff, contact Keith Stout at kstout@nmdp.org.