September 5, 2023
As a lifelong Hartford-based musician, William “Billy” Powell has always been able to inspire others through his arrangements of melodies and messages of empowerment and faith. It was his faith that led him through the most challenging period of his life—when he and his dear wife Joi were both diagnosed with cancer at the same time.
While Billy ultimately won his long, courageous battle against cancer, his wife Joi Nicole Powell sadly transitioned in May 2023 at the age of 41 with her husband and twin brother at her side. Now, according to Billy, his next fight is preserving his wife’s legacy by educating the community on the importance of organ and tissue donations for people of various ethnic backgrounds.
“I learned through this experience, as a black man, I only had a 29% chance of finding a match for a bone marrow transplant,” says Billy. “That opened up another line of questioning for me and I found out it came down to a lack of information. Patients are most likely to match a donor of their own ethnic background—and people in the black and brown communities tend to think it’s more complicated and invasive to join the donor pool than it really is. So, there is a disparity in the numbers.”
Following his diagnosis, Billy was admitted to Hartford Hospital for multiple months-long stays. At times, his children could only wave to him through a window as he waited for his immune system to bounce back. Meanwhile, Joi was going through her own treatments.
“The staff at the hospital were extremely helpful—they really restored my faith in the medical field,” says Billy. “They made the most tumultuous time of my life easier because there was a lot of mental strain from not being able to see my family. To help sustain us during this time, the hospital’s social workers, Hartford Hospital’s Patient Assistance Fund, as well as the Lymphoma Society, helped my wife and me with a couple of months of mortgage payments. We had a huge support system between Hartford Hospital, our family, and our church.”
“We felt honored to support the Powell family through the generous gifts we received through Hartford Hospital’s Patient Assistance Fund,” said Lynn Rossini, VP of Philanthropy at Hartford Hospital. “These funds are meant to help our patients through the most difficult times. Easing the burden of paying their mortgage, utilities, childcare, and meals are some of the many ways in which we support our patients and their families.”
“My caseworker and other hospital staff suggested I connect with the Be The Match organization,” Billy continued. “They bring information about bone marrow donations to events and help you join the donor pool just from a cheek swab—and we need to get more black and brown people to join the donor pool.
“God healed me and I didn’t need a transplant,” says Billy. “But many people take their healing for granted and just go back to their normal lives. So many people we know die from cancers—and your survival rate increases when they can find a donor for you.”
Before Joi’s passing, she and Billy created the Allen Nicole Foundation—a reference to their middle names—which aspires to raise local awareness of the simplicity and significance of joining the donor pool, while also raising funds to aid people who have experienced a medical issue and lack a support system. Today, the foundation stands as a tribute to Joi’s legacy.
On Saturday, September 9, 2023, the Allen Nicole Foundation hosted a fundraising and health information event in conjunction with Be The Match: The Music & Health Concert Series at the Latter Rain Christian Fellowship Church in Hartford. In addition to the musical entertainment, attendees received pertinent information on bone marrow donations and had the opportunity to join the donor pool with a simple cheek swab.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to get involved with Hartford Hospital Philanthropy, including patient assistance programs, please visit us our Ways to Give webpage.