University of Richmond partnered with Delete Blood Cancer DKMS to host a bone marrow donor registry drive Feb. 12, attracting 253 people to join.
Students from the Global Health and Human Rights Club and Camp Kesem helped organize and run the drive.
“The event really exceeded our expectations,” said senior Alisha Cerel, co-president of the club. “It went really well, and it was awesome to overhear people remark how easy the process of joining the registry is and encourage their friends to [register] too.”
Students manned tables in the Tyler Haynes Commons and the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness Wednesday. They asked passersby to check their medical eligibility, fill out a form and get the inside of their cheek swabbed to register, Cerel said.
“I registered because I know that it’s a simple way to potentially save someone’s life,” said junior Chloe Zung. “I’ve always meant to do it because when I was younger, a family friend died of leukemia, so I’ve always felt that I should give in her honor.”
Delete Blood Cancer DKMS representatives reached out to Richmond last November to host the drive. This international organization leads the fight to end blood cancer by empowering people to join the bone marrow registry and get tested to be a match.
“We work with colleges because college students are at the ideal age and health to be bone marrow donors,” said Helen Demestihas, Delete Blood Cancer donor recruitment coordinator. “Also, helping us to save lives feels amazing and allows students to shine on campus.”
Flyers around campus for the drive showed the face of a Fordham University student, Anthony Daniels, 22, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Daniels received a diagnosis in December 2011 and was in remission for two years, but he relapsed in August 2013 and is now looking for a match for a bone marrow transplant.
“When I was first diagnosed with cancer three years ago, my biggest fear was to crumble in front of everyone’s eyes,” Daniels said. “Now I can stand here and tell you that I am the strongest person that my doctors have ever seen or had.”
Delete Blood Cancer DKMS often works with patients like Daniels to use their stories when hosting a donor registry drive, Demestihas said.
“We use patients behind our donor drives because it allows them to be a face to the cause, adding a personal connection to many,” Demestihas said. “Unfortunately, blood cancer is a real disease, but the more we get on the registry, the more of a real solution we have.”
Daniels is continuing his studies of business at Fordham while he looks for a match, he said. He was also on the Fordham men’s ice hockey team, but had to stop playing the game he had been playing since he was 7 years old, he said. Since the diagnosis, Daniels has been able to pick up body building and boxing instead.
“I started to body build with my chiropractor, and I never missed a training day,” Daniels said. “I was also a full-time boxer, and I trained the same days as chemotherapy. I made a vow to myself to focus on being a better and stronger person and now, here I am today.”
The student organization representatives in charge of the registry drive hope to stay involved with Delete Blood Cancer DKMS and continue to raise awareness, said junior Skylar Gray, Camp Kesem development coordinator.
“It would be awesome if we could do this every year,” Gray said. “As college kids, we often think we can’t make a difference if we don’t have money to donate, but this is something where we can do so much more: We can save a life.”
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