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Courier-Post: Former Haddonfield mayor’s blood donations echo personal loss

Editor’s Note: The following article originally ran in the Courier-Post on October 21, 2013.  Jack Tarditi serves on The Cooper Foundation Board of Trustees.

Former Haddonfield mayor’s blood donations echo personal loss

October 21, 2013
Written by Kim Mulford

Every two weeks, Jack Tarditi pulls out his iPad and rolls up his sleeve at the Camden County Donor Center in Pennsauken.

For the next hour and a half, while he scrolls through email and return phone calls, a machine removes blood from a vein, collecting platelets before returning the rest back into his arm along with some saline.
Platelets allow blood to clot, and are a “life-saving elixir” for patients with leukemia and other diseases, Tarditi explains.

He’s been doing this faithfully for 15 years. A blood donor since 1962, the former Haddonfield mayor has given more than 40 gallons of his blood to the American Red Cross.
Called apheresis, the platelet and plasma donation process allows the 73-year-old to give more frequently than every two months, the standard for whole blood donors.

It’s a gift from his heart.

The Red Cross depends on blood donors to maintain a constant supply of blood and blood products to patients who need it. Indeed, each donation can save up to three lives, said Anthony C. Tornetta, a spokesman for the nonprofit’s PennJersey Blood Services.

When he started giving, Tarditi was drawn to helping children with leukemia, a cancer affecting bone marrow and blood.

“Never did I think when I was doing apheresis that someone in my own family would be affected and need to have platelets,” he muses now.

But nine years ago, Tarditi’s daughter, Sarah Gallagher, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 7½ months pregnant. She would soon give birth to a healthy son, Macallister.
When news of her diagnosis came, the Tarditi family met at Ponzio’s and came up with a plan to help Sarah and her husband, Michael.

A sister donated her stem cells; two other siblings weren’t a match. Sarah’s youngest brother left school to move in with the couple as an au pair. Tarditi continued to donate his platelets to unknown recipients who, like Sarah, needed them to survive cancer treatment.

“I kept on praying, ‘Lord, I’m 65. Take me. Let Sarah live and raise her son,’ ” her father recalls. “But it wasn’t God’s plan.”

Three years after her diagnosis, Sarah died from the disease at 31. It was a horrific loss, Tarditi says. But his wife, Barbara, would remind him to think of parents whose small children suffered the same fate.
Tarditi continued to give his platelets — and more.

Each year, the family hosts a golf tournament in Sarah’s memory to raise money for a wide range of charities, including the Leukemia Society, the Cancer Society of South Jersey, Ronald McDonald House and Interfaith Caregivers. Last week, Tarditi supported a charitable golf outing and auction to benefit the American Red Cross.

Though he’s a volunteer for numerous organizations and managing director of the insurance brokerage and consulting firm Conner Strong & Buckelew, Tarditi thinks nothing of the time he spends every couple weeks in the donor chair.

He’s not alone.

Tarditi thanks blood donors at every opportunity for the platelets that kept Sarah alive long enough to give birth and see her son toddle and talk. Macallister is a fourth-grader now.

“Is there a better gift you can give somebody?” the boy’s grandfather asks. “I can’t think of it.

“It’s not a heavy lift when you consider what the payback is.”