Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society


The Vancouver Division supports the Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society and some members serve as couriers.

The Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society is a registered charity and was founded in 1988 with a mandate to help build the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry. We educate the public about the need for bone marrow donors, and raise funds in support of the work of the One Match stem cell and marrow network, a program of Canadian Blood Services. One Match registers potential bone marrow donors and matches them to patients needing transplants.

Over the years, the society has grown to include branches in provinces across the country and has raised a significant amount of money in support of its goals. It has played an important role in increasing the number of potential donors on the national registry from 1500 people in 1988 to over 340,000 people today. While this is excellent progress, there is still a serious need for registrants among ethnic groups. Recently the society has directed its focus on raising awareness among these groups.

When a matching donor cannot be found in Canada, one can sometimes be found on the international registry. Groups of trained volunteers from various provinces are recruited and coordinated by the Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society to serve as couriers and bring the life-saving bone marrow (stem cells) back to waiting Canadian patients.”

Our Mission

To improve the quality of life for those affected by blood-related illnesses and ensure a legacy so those who have gone before us are not forgotten.

Bruce Denniston was a well-liked, dynamic RCMP constable stationed in Powell River, BC with his wife and three children. With the loyalty of many friends and the admiration of his co-workers, he seemed to be living the perfect life. But one day in November, 1987 this young family man’s life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with chronic myelocytic leukemia. The doctors told him his only hope for survival was a bone marrow transplant. None of his family members were compatible donors, so the search began for an unrelated donor. At that time, Canada’s fledgling Unrelated Bone Marrow Registry, a pilot program of the Red Cross, contained the names of only 1500 potential bone marrow donors from all of Canada.

Finding a compatible bone marrow donor can be like finding a needle in a haystack but in a remarkable outpouring of support, the public and the RCMP joined forces to find that needle. The Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society was formed with the sole purpose of providing financial assistance to the Registry so that it could expand and give Bruce and all patients like him a second chance at life.

A donor was finally found for Bruce in England but the disease had ravaged his body for too long and the treatment required to prepare the young constable for the marrow transplant had taken its toll and he could not recover. He died in 1989, and his funeral was attended by an honour guard of RCMP officers.

Stem Cell Courier Program

Since 2012 the Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society has been working with the Leukemia/BMT Program of BC to collect stem cells from within Canada and around the world for bone marrow transplant patients in British Columbia. This initiative evolved out of a pilot project between the Ottawa Hospital and the Society’s Ottawa Branch in 2008.(See

The Ottawa branch now handles on average 40-50 dispatches per year for the Ottawa Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto) and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Toronto). In its first year of operation in BC the Society coordinated 50 courier trips for Vancouver General Hospital.

Whereas the Ottawa branch has a large number of couriers who take just one or two trips per year, the BC branch has a smaller but very generous group of volunteer couriers, several of whom took as many as 10 trips in the first year and are happy to travel whenever possible.

Chris Bolster, reporter for the Powell River Peak, has written two articles about the couriers (see the links that follow) and took this photograph of them at a recent appreciation luncheon. Janet May has written the most recent article, to which a link is also provided. The Society is deeply grateful for the couriers’ volunteer services, as are the people whose lives have been saved.