Local people, places, travels and simchas

A Super Sunday

Years ago, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Super Sunday consisted of a phone-a-thon only. On Jan. 29, not only did volunteers exceed the day’s projected fundraising goal but they performed acts of loving kindness. Activities on this expanded Mitzvah Day included an American Red Cross blood drive, Gift of Life bone marrow registration, PJ Library story time with a tzedakah box craft project, and writing letters to the troops overseas.

Richard White

This day of giving usually evokes a human interest story and this year was no exception.

Richard White, executive director of the American Red Cross Southern Arizona, was a volunteer phone solicitor. During his shift, he was asked if he would consider having his cheek swabbed for the bone marrow registry. He replied that he has already been a donor.

In 2004, he said, everyone at the American Red Cross registered with the bone marrow registry in an effort to save a former employee’s dying daughter. Unfortunately no one at the Red Cross was a match for the little girl. A week later, Richard learned that he was virtually a perfect match for a nine-month-old boy in Cleveland who was born with almost no immune system. Richard donated stem cells at the Arizona Cancer Center, undergoing a procedure he describes as being “a little bit of discomfort.” The little boy lived for about nine more months after receiving the stem cell transplant before succumbing to an infection. Richard’s altruism gave the boy’s family that extra precious time with him.

Through the markers used to ascertain match compatibility, it was determined that, through their Polish ancestry, Richard and the little boy were related three or four generations back. “I would fly anywhere in the world, at my own expense, for the chance to save someone’s life, and hope that, if G-d forbid someone in my family ever needed a bone marrow transplant, they would find a donor through the bone marrow network,” Richard said.

Research adventure

Jenna Kloosterman with project apparatus during testing in Antarctica

From Nov. 7 until Jan. 19, Jenna Kloosterman, 30, a fifth-year University of Arizona Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, traveled to Antarctica with her research group on a project called Stratospheric Terachertz Observatory. STO is a NASA-funded Long Duration Balloon experiment designed to study the lifecycle of the Interstellar Medium. On Jan. 16, STO launched from Williams Field near McMurdo Station in Antarctica, following a circular path around the continent at 120,000 feet. The flight lasted two weeks.

Throughout this remarkable experience, Jenna kept family, friends and colleagues informed through a blog with photos. Some of the highlights of her adventure included observing sea-ice pressure ridges, penguins and camping overnight in tents on the Antarctic ice during Snow School. She ate latkes on Chanukah at the bottom of the world during 24 hours of daylight and enjoyed the annual Icestock six-hour music festival over New Year’s.

In retrospect, meeting new people and making new friends in this intense environment, Jenna said, countered the feelings of isolation and fatigue from the stressful workload and grueling hours.


Senior Olympics

On Jan. 27, during the 28th annual Tucson Senior Olympic Festival, Larry Dalkoff won the silver medal in the men’s power lifting category (ages 60-64). He competed in squat, bench press and dead lift at the Mid-Valley Athletic Club. Our competitor works out at L.A. Fitness three to four times per week and has participated in this senior competition for several years.

Mountain bike relay

(L-R) Jeff Silvyn, Matt Holland, David Plotkin and Damion Alexander

Todd Sadow, president of Epic Rides, is co-founder of the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo mountain bike relay, now in its 13th year. From noon to noon, Feb. 18-19, thousands of competitors, spectators and volunteers converged on Willow Springs Ranch in the desert northwest of Tucson for this event. Bikers rode the 17-mile loop and repeated it throughout the 24-hour period. Some racers rode solo; others handed off the wooden baton to their teammates in this test of mind and body. Riders, some with their families, camped in the Sonoran desert during the contest, which promotes solidarity with friends and a sense of accomplishment. Event sponsors included Kona Bikes and Tucson Medical Center, with proceeds donated to the Arizona Cancer Center, the Cascade Foundation and several other worthy causes.

Some biking buddies who took part in this year’s relay included teammates Matt Holland, David Plotkin and Jeff Silvyn; Damion Alexander and Jeff Wortzel rode solo.


Time to share

Keep me posted at the Post — 319-1112. L’shalom.