iO Exclusive Interview: Patrick Pedraja

When faced with a life-threatening diagnosis, many people struggle to remain positive. 14-year-old Patrick Pedraja’s only thought after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, however, was how he could help other people. “I saw a TV show about a girl who passed away because she couldn’t find a marrow transplant, and I said “MOM! Let’s go do a marrow drive.” She was like “OK, cool!” And it kind of turned into this big national marrow drive with 32 cities and signing up people all over the country.”

The ambitious teenager founded Driving For Donors to travel across the country and sign up as many people as possible for the national bone marrow registry. Many leukemia patients are in dire need of bone marrow transplants but are unable to find a match due to the low numbers of registered donors. Since its inception in 2007, Driving For Donors has added thousands of new matches, raised funds to cover tissue processing fees and has already saved five lives.

For the next few months he will be teaming up with Hopeless Records and Sub City on the Take Action! tour to raise awareness for the cause. 10% of the proceeds from all ticket sales on the tour will go to further the work of the charity, and concertgoers will be able to sign up for the registry onsite. inner Orange was able to speak with Patrick about his work with the charity and the tour, and gain insight into how he stays motivated.

inner Orange: How is life treating you [in Los Angeles]? How’s your health – I heard you were in remission last year?

Patrick Pedraja: It’s all good, I’m in remission. I finished my chemo last July. I actually just got my port out which is the last step. It’s where they used to give you your chemo and they entered it under the skin at the beginning of chemo. I just got it out Friday, so it’s the last step after you’re all done.

iO: That’s great! How did you get involved with Take Action?

Patrick: We got hooked up with Take Action! through an organization called Do Something, and it really helped us “take action.” We both really like what the other organization does, and its really helped us communicate and get together as one organization to do [the Take Action! tour]. Both of us are targeting an audience of the people that are going to be at the concerts, which probably 18 to 25. You have to be 18 to be on the registry.

iO: What is that process like? If someone’s going to be going to the tour, what should they expect when they come to your booth?

Patrick: When you go the booth, if you want to register it’s ten minutes of paperwork to fill out. Basic contact information and then a cheek swab. Just a basic cheek swab and you’re on the registry. It’s very simple.

iO: What are your goals or expectations from affiliating with Do Something and the tour?

Patrick: I think that my expectations are just to have a good outcome. Just to get the message out, get everyone aware about my cause. Everyone should just open their eyes and be like “Wow, this is a problem that we have on our home front here,” you know? That’s my main goal of this whole tour. And it doesn’t take that long to do it, its just the ten minutes of paperwork and then the cheek swab and then they’re good. They’re on the registry.

iO: If somebody actually needs to donate, if they call them up and make it happen, what is that process like? Is it a lot of surgery?

Patrick: No, no, no! Scientists today have it that you can do peripheral stem cells, where they give you a medicine, a shot, where it makes your stem cells overflow. You can basically just draw like you’re drawing blood. They give it to the patient that needs the marrow transplant and their stem cells are in the blood that they give them.

iO: It’s not complicated or anything, that’s good to know! Now, you have been interviewed about this by Craig Ferguson, CNN… You were a CNN hero. What’s it like to be interviewed by these people and be in that chair? What is that experience like for someone of your age?

Patrick: It’s very exciting, but at the same time its humbling because I think to myself, “I’m very special to get this opportunity to do this.” And it makes me want to help people more.

iO: Have you met any interesting people in your travels?

Patrick: Yeah, I’ve met people all across the world that just love to help people and love my cause and have their own cause to support. It really helps me feel better about the world.

iO: What keeps you motivated? Is it meeting these people?

Patrick: I would say that just my family keeps me going a lot. They really help me to realize that there’s still work to be done. They always keep motivating me when I’m down.

iO: Excellent, you always need family, for sure. What is in store for you in 2010 and beyond?

Patrick: Right now we’re doing the Take Action! tour and then planning a couple more drives around the country. Trying to figure out how to get our RV for 2010.

iO: So it’s actually a physical RV, a big bus that you drive around?

Patrick: Yeah! It is, it’s a big bus and it has a big driving for donors logo and my head on the side. It’s kind of like our second home.

iO: Is it like a Blood Bus where they can go inside and fill out all the paperwork?

Patrick: No, it’s actually our living quarters when we go on the road.

iO: So you’re like a touring band!

Patrick: Exactly, and so we go on tour like the Take Action! tour with the bands. Only we’re the people that go and help register people.

iO: Are you [personally] going to be traveling with the tour at all?

Patrick: Unfortunately I only can come to two of the events which are out here in Los Angeles at West Hollywood and Anaheim. I would love to go to more but I don’t think it would be possible. I think that my mom wont let me! *Laughs*

iO: If you could recommend one band to the readers of inner Orange, what would it be?

Patrick: Of course the Take Action! tour bands, We the Kings, There For Tomorrow, all those. They’re really good, they’re real nice.

iO: They’re all from Florida too. Did they come to meet you as part of the Take Action! tour?

Patrick: We met them at one of the events they were doing – one of the shows they were putting on in West Hollywood. They were a really nice group of boys. Their music is great but they’re also very genuine.

iO: Do you think that through their fans they can get this message out – that they’re good representatives for the Take Action! message?

Patrick: Oh yeah, of course. I definitely think they have the power to. They have the will in them to help other people as well, and I really think that’s a unique skill that people have.

Catch the Take Action! tour when it rolls into town on February 11th at the House of Blues in Orlando. Stop by the Driving For Donors booth to see how you can help! Tickets are only $12.65 in advance, so buy a ticket and help to save a life. (Purchase tickets at LiveNation or at the House of Blues box office.)

See you at the show!



One Response to “iO Exclusive Interview: Patrick Pedraja”

  1. Brayton Ewing Says:

    Hello Patrick,
    My name is Brayton Ewing. I’m doing a project for my Literature class about teens who have made a difference in the society. So, if you could please answer the following questions, that’d be great.
    1. What did you do to help the society?
    2. Who helped you? What inspired you to help the society?
    3. How did you get into it in the first place?
    4. What society did you help?
    5. How did it make you feel to help?
    6. What are some of your legacies?
    7. How long did it take you to help?
    8. How many people did you impact?
    9. What doubts did you have and how did you over come them?
    10. How did publicity help you?
    11. How can others help their society?
    12. Did this go exactly as you planned?
    13. How old were you when you did this?
    14. What were the difficulties and the easy parts?
    15. How much time and effort did it take?
    16. Last, why did you do it?
    Thank you very much for helping me out with this!
    Sincerely, Brayton Ewing

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