Japanese-American Krissy Kobata Battles Odds and Time to Find Bone Marrow Donor

Prominent agent Don Yee, one of the Sports Task Force’s greatest supporters, has a young friend fighting for her life.

Krissy Kobata of Los Angeles was diagnosed in 2008 with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a disease that destroys the body’s ability to make new blood cells and often develops into acute leukemia. The possible cure is a bone marrow transplant but Krissy has a unique challenge: Her mixed-race heritage makes finding a donor harder.

As the daughter of a Japanese American father and Caucasian mother, as of a January 2012 story published by Glamour, none of the 9.5 million volunteers in the national bone marrow registry were a match.

“Caucasians have almost a 93 percent chance of finding the right match,” the Glamour story said, “but for someone like Krissy, the odds are shockingly low.”

Krissy’s brother Randy also wasn’t a match.

On June 30th, Krissy and her family received a troubling update after a bone marrow biopsy. Her levels are low, and she’s running out of time.

“She is now in the process of actively preparing for a bone marrow transplant, hopefully by sometime in the fall,” a post at TeamKrissy.com said.

So what can you do?

Spread the word and register for the match registry, especially if you are of mixed race. In the Glamour story, Dr. Willis Navarro of the National Marrow Donor Program said only 3 percent of the 9.5 million volunteers are of mixed race.

“We don’t break down mixed race further, but I can tell you that within that group, the number of Japanese Caucasian, or even Asian Caucasian, donors is tiny,” Dr Navarro said. “As this country becomes more diverse and marriages continue to cross racial and ethnic lines, finding a match for people of mixed race will be increasingly daunting. It’s a huge challenge, because while our program has aggressively recruited minority donors through community groups, there really aren’t enough ‘mixed-race’ organizations to help us target those individuals.”

Over the last few years, Krissy has been a champion of raising awareness, particularly among mixed-raced donors.

“My biggest wish right now is for anyone reading this — especially those of you who are mixed race — to realize that you could be that match, for me or for someone else,” Krissy told Glamour. “It’s so, so easy: You just take a Q-tip and swab your cheek, and you could literally save a life. I refuse to give up hope — now or ever. But you are the hope that someone like me clings to.”

She said those words 5 1/2 years ago, yet Krissy remains unwavering in her optimism.

“Krissy is staying positive and in good spirits,” the post at TeamKrissy.com said.

Click on the image or click here to learn how to register at Be The Match.

If interested in doing a story on Krissy, please contact Sean Jensen of the Sports Task Force at seanjensen@me.com. 

STF Announces Recipients of Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee Scholarship

For as long as he can remember, prominent sports agent Don Yee had an “intense” interest in journalism.

“I really think it’s journalists who are able and best positioned to tell the stories of people who are striving to overcome challenges,” Yee says, “and they’re also best positioned to expose to the world the stories of the most vulnerable.

“So I think the media, in general, is a significant institution and we have to do what we can to encourage good media and good journalists.”

In honor of his parents, Yee has upped his investment in the AAJA Sports Task Force by providing two scholarships to college students and recent graduates interested in sports journalism to help cover expenses related to travel and accommodations for the 2017 AAJA convention in Philadelphia in July. The two recipients for the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship are Charlie Lapastora and Daniel Tran.

“We had several highly-qualified applicants this year,” says Sports Task Force chairman Howard Chen. “Both (Lapastora and Tran) showed a passion for sports journalism and both have strong resumes.

“It’s never financially easy for those who are beginning their pursuit of a career in journalism,” Chen adds. “Don’s contribution makes it possible for two people to help do what they can to take that next step in their careers at this year’s AAJA convention.”

Representing many clients, including Tom Brady, Yee has developed into one of the NFL’s most-respected agents. He says he was very impressed with Tran and Lapastora.

“The one thing that stood out is the passion that they both have for the profession and for sports,” Yee says of Tran and Lapastora. “It’s always great to see passion and dedication, and I’m really happy that they’re this year’s recipients.”

Charlie Lapastora

Lapastora says his family’s story is quite similar to Yee’s. His grandparents moved to Detroit with $500 to make a better life for their family.

“Throughout each step of my journey,” Lapastora says, “there’s been so many trials and obstacles, but each time I chose to overcome them.

“But it’s not about me,” adds Lapastora, a graduate of Oakland University. “It’s about those whose lives are affected, whose story I’m telling.”

Like Lapastora, Tran can also relate to Yee’s story and is greatly encouraged to win this scholarship.

“He knows the struggle of people underestimating his abilities, and overcoming those challenges to become the best in his profession,” says Tran, who has a masters degree from the University of Southern California.

Daniel Tran

At last year’s convention, Yee had a chance to meet the inaugural winner of the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship, Josh Tolentino of Illinois State.

“I was really honored to meet Josh Tolentino and hear about his path and his hopes and dreams, and aspirations,” Yee says. “Josh is a terrific young writer and just to see the growth in his career and have a minor hand in it is really gratifying.”

But Yee has a message for Tran, Lapastora, Tolentino and other aspiring Asian American journalists.

“The one thing I’d like to share and for people to understand, all of you have to overcome very significant, built-in institutional hurdles,” Yee says. “Not just from a general perception of who you are by larger society but also a general perception of who you are by even those within the industry. So if there’s anything I can do to help to get as many people to understand the context within you are trying to operate, I think it’s educational but it also gives people a greater understanding of the odds and challenges Asian American journalists face.”

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Sports Task Force has named Jackson Safon the inaugural winner of its ESPN internship.

Safon is graduating with a degree from the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. 

“The process to find one that was most worthy of this ESPN/AAJA Sports Task Force internship wasn’t easy, with so many strong candidates,” said Howard Chen, STF’s chairman. “Special thanks to our judging panel for going through all the entries and selecting USC’s Jackson Safon, our inaugural winner of this incredible opportunity. Think about it: this is a paid internship with furnished housing covered! Thank you to ESPN and Disney for continuing to champion diversity with this internship.”

There were over 43 applicants for the ESPN/ AAJA Sports Task Force internship, but Jackson distinguished himself with his grades and his extensive work as in digital and broadcast media.

Don Yee provides second STF Scholarship to 2017 AAJA Convention in Philadelphia

Josh Tolentino weighed his options for the summer of 2016.

Full-time, paid internship as a page designer at a small newspaper in Illinois. Or an unpaid sports internship at the Chicago Sun-Times.

He followed his passion, sports.

His 90-minute commute downtown, consisting of buses and trains, ate in his savings, and he worried that he wouldn’t be able to attend the seminal event of his summer: the Asian American Journalists Convention in Las Vegas. He had attended the previous year, meeting the Asian broadcasters, anchors, editors and sportswriters he admired. And as he prepared for his senior year, he felt it essential to attend again.

But the cost was prohibitive.

Then he discovered that respected agent Don Yee was offering, in honor of his parents, a scholarship to the convention through the Sports Task Force.

Tolentino applied… and he was the inaugural winner of the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship, which provided a college student up to $1,000 in travel-related expenses and accommodations for the convention in Las Vegas.

“I was overwhelmed,” Tolentino said. “I had been telling myself that I would make it happen. But, deep down, if I didn’t get that scholarship from Don, I wouldn’t have been able to go.”

In Las Vegas, in a hotel lobby, Tolentino was introduced to Yee by STF mentor and leader Ohm Youngmisuk. Tolentino reached into his bag and pulled out a copy of the Sun-Times, featuring one of his stories on the back cover.

 

“It was a real honor to meet Josh,” Yee said. “He is an impressive guy… and he has a bright future. I hope I can help him and others any way I can.”

To that end, Yee is offering two scholarships for travel to this year’s convention in Philadelphia, one for a current college student and a second for someone who has graduated within the last three years.

“I wanted to add a second scholarship because I want to help as many people as I can and because what journalists do is so important,” Yee said. “The industry is undergoing so much change, and it’s difficult for journalists to get support — so I want to do what I can.”

STF chair Howard Chen said he’s “amazed” by Yee’s willingness to help aspiring sports journalists.

“Both college students and fresh college graduates usually go through a financial struggle in order to pursue their dreams,” said Chen, ESPN’s international producer overseeing NBA video content for China. “The fact that Don is helping both groups speaks to who he is as a person and, on behalf of the Sports Task Force, we are so thankful for Don’s support!”

Yee’s parents have influenced his desire to help STF and other organizations.

Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee immigrated to the U.S. when China fell under Communist rule, and they settled in Sacramento. They endured many hardships as they created a new life for themselves and their family. But Jimmie and Suey Fong instilled in their children the importance of kindness.

A founder and partner of Yee & Dubin Sports, Yee’s clients include New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, among many others. He’s also a notable speaker and writer.

Yee said his family has been very supportive of the scholarship.

“All of us know how encouraging our parents were to us,” he said, “and we’re just glad to be able to help however we can.”

Yee was thrilled to be able to meet Tolentino and many others at last year’s AAJA convention. 

“I always leave feeling inspired,” he said. “There is so much talent there — I come from outside the journalism industry so perhaps I have a more objective view, but the level of talent, drive and smarts is impressive.”

As Tolentino approaches graduation from Illinois State, he said he’s thankful for Yee and STF’s continued support.

“Don’t think twice: Apply,” Tolentino said. “You never know the chances you have. Don and the organization have been so helpful and instrumental, not just with the scholarship.

“I can never stop saying thank you to them enough.”

 

Nader Issa Wins STF’s Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Sports Task Force has named Nader Issa as the second recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship.

Issa is a senior journalism and sports management major at Loyola University in Chicago. The managing editor of the student newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix, Issa broke a national story in spring 2016 about Sheryl Swoopes, one of the greatest women’s basketball players. Issa’s reporting revealed mistreatment allegations of players by Swoopes, the head coach of the women’s basketball team.

“This was a very close judging process. We had a tremendous pool of applicants who we feel all have bright futures,” said Howard Chen, the Sports Task Force chairman. “Nader is committed to sports journalism, and he demonstrated his potential in breaking the Swoopes story that landed him national interviews, including Outside the Lines.”

Currently a student member of AAJA, Issa attended the AAJA Convention last summer in Las Vegas.

“It was good to know that there are people supporting me, the way everyone at the Sports Task Force has since I joined AAJA,” Issa said. “It’s reaffirming to know my hard work is paying off.”

While wrapping up his studies at Loyola, Issa will soon start a Metro internship at the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Nader’s tenacity, commitment and desire to succeed as a sports journalist makes him a worthy winner,” said Al Young. “His Sheryl Swoopes investigative piece that became a national story is testimony that he’s on the right track. I’m delighted that this scholarship will help him move forward.”

The Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship is named after an award-winning journalist whose career spanned more than four decades. Young was the nation’s first Asian American sportswriter at a metro daily. He was a writer and editor at various publications including the Boston Globe, USA Today and the New York Daily News before he retired in 2012.