CHATHAM, NJ - The School District of the Chathams and the Chatham Education Association PRIDE committee have joined forces to find a bone-marrow stem cell donor match for 5-year-old leukemia patient, Jackie Erb.

The screening event will be held at Chatham High School from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9.

Jackie Erb is the daughter of CHS Special Education teacher Brian Erb and his wife, Lauren Gonnella. The family resides in Summit. Jackie has been diagnosed with JMML (Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia), a rare form of leukemia.

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“As Brian's co-teacher, I witnessed the devastating steps in December to Jackie's JMML diagnosis firsthand and was heartbroken with him; when I shared the news with our colleagues, the immediate call to help our friend and his family spread.," Betsy Long, CEA co-president, said.

"We have an opportunity to use the influence of CEA and PRIDE to further organize, support, and partner with the district and community to better a very dire situation for an amazing community member who has given so much to all of us.”

CEA has partnered with Be the Match to conduct the screening drive. Participants will not exit their vehicles during the screening, and all COVID safety protocols will be observed.

“I look forward to supporting efforts this Saturday to identify a bone marrow match and donor for the Gonnella-Erb family," Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa said. "I am grateful to the CEA for spearheading this event and supporting the Gonnella-Erb family during this challenging time.”

Participants will self-administer a cheek swab to check their eligibility as a match. The cheek swab is free for donors ages 18-44 due to the higher success rate from donors in this age range; for those over 45 who want to participate, the cost is $100, which would be paid by the individual or by the Gonella-Erb family.

For those who want to participate but cannot attend the event on Saturday, test kits will be available for home delivery upon request from Be the Match. There are two ways to access a kit: 

  1. Go to https://join.bethematch.org/TeamJackie and register. 

  2. Text teamjackie (all one word) to 61474.

In-person screening is preferable due to the urgent timeline and the short window in Jackie’s treatment plan during which the marrow donation can take place.

Please contact Candace Hull, CEA PRIDE committee chair, at chull@chatham-nj.org with questions.