Robyn Henwood

Top 40 Under 40 2017

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 34

Job Title: Stem Cell Territory Manager, Canadian Blood Services

Why She’s Top 40: She strives to give hope to those who are chronically ill

Robyn Henwood wants to swab your cheek. Henwood is Canadian Blood Services’ Stem Cell Territory Manager for the prairies and the Northwest Territories, and works to increase the number of potential and tested donors through Canada Blood Services’ One Match program.

Stem cells, bone marrow and cord blood are used to treat up to 80 different diseases and are only used once all other treatments have stopped working. Although matching donors are hard to find (hence the One Match program name), it is easy to be tested. Henwood travels on recruitment campaigns, meeting in particular with Indigenous populations. Indigenous populations are particularly at risk for diseases that require stem-cell treatment, and members of their own communities are the most likely to be a match for them.

“It’s just a cheek swab,” Henwood says. “It doesn’t even take that much time. Everyone should do it.”

Henwood says that the best part of her job is working with families and providing them with one last ray of hope. In the past year, she registered 14,639 young people to become potential donors of stem cell or bone marrow. Indeed, giving hope is how Henwood wants to make her mark.

Prior to working with Canadian Blood Services, Henwood worked as a political staffer in the Alberta Legislature for 13 years.

“I have always enjoyed being out in the community and making things happen,” she says. “My work in the legislature allowed me to do that, and my volunteer work allows me to continue to do so.”

In addition to her work for Canadian Blood Services, Henwood also volunteers as head coach for Alberta’s Special Olympics swim team, which practises twice a week at the pool at NAIT. She is also a wish granter through Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta, granting six to eight wishes a year to children with chronic and terminal illnesses. And once a month, she cooks for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House.

“I contribute by taking care of neighbours and strangers in some of the darkest times of their lives,” she says. “I make their lives a little better and that makes Edmonton a better place to live, work and play.”

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