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Pearl Takes Fundraising Personally

Alex Pearl

Alexandra ‘Alex’ Pearl isn’t like most college students her age. At 20, she’s a first-degree karate black belt and a talented woodworker who can make anything from pens and checker sets, to baseball bat cases, tables and more. 

According to Pearl, her interest in woodworking was sparked during high school. 

“I signed up for a woodshop class because I wanted to meet boys,” she joked. “Ironically, I made some friends and I discovered a new passion.”

Now at St. Louis Community College-Wildwood, Pearl is pursuing an associate degree in general transfer studies. She plans to graduate in May and pursue a career selling her custom wood creations. 

“Not only is Alex an active member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, but she’s a well-respected student by faculty and peers,” said Wendy Verhoff, assistant professor of history. “She is present and genuine, a kind collaborator with fellow students, and deeply interested in the big questions that drive us to know and make what we know matter.”

When she’s not at STLCC or engaged in her hobbies, she works to raise awareness for Fanconi Anemia (FA), a rare blood disorder that often leads to cancer. Pearl’s commitment to this cause is deeply personal as she and her younger brother, Matt, both have FA. When they were kids, they received bone marrow transplants from two unrelated donors to treat their FA. 

In response to their diagnosis, the Pearl family has devoted a significant amount of time and energy to support the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund -- a worldwide nonprofit that works to find effective cures for FA. Along with volunteering at Camp Sunshine, an annual event for families with FA, Pearl has served as a spokesperson for the National Marrow Donor program. She also plays a key role in Kick FA, a kickball fundraiser her brother created to raise money for the FA research fund. Since 2010, Kick FA has raised more than $50,000.

“I am constantly amazed and inspired by my kids,” said Diane Pearl. “Alex and Matt have overcome so much, and I am so proud of the people they have become.”

While it’s impossible to predict what challenges may lie ahead, the Pearls have made a conscious effort to live in the moment. In fact, the family has a bucket list, and together they have completed a number of activities on it. Among these, they traveled to Alaska, experienced whitewater rafting and visited Disney. 
Their favorite activity, however, took place when they went to Europe to meet Alex’s bone marrow donor.

“We met at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and climbed it together, walking hand-in-hand,” she said. “It was an incredible experience to meet the person who saved my life, and one I’ll treasure forever.”

Although she has faced more challenges than many of her peers, Pearl has found a way to embrace her circumstances.    

“To me, quality of life is more important than the length of time,” she said.  “It’s a weird balance, but I’ve learned that if you want to be happy, you have to seize each moment and appreciate every experience.”

To learn more about FA, or make a donation to the research fund, visit http://fanconi.org/index.php/donate.