By Meghan Rice
Sacred Heart University’s Band Program took a break from performing and partnered with Be The Match, a nonprofit organization run by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), to “band together” and seek out college students on campus willing to donate their bone marrow to blood cancer patients.
“We do a lot of college stuff, because it’s the prime age,” said Jon DeCasanova, a representative from Be The Match. “Prime age and gender would be 18 to 25 and male because males can give us more cells—but we have many female donors as well.”
Supported and funded by the United States Navy and numerous families and doctors, Be The Match started after Dr. Robert Graves’ 10-year-old daughter, Laura Graves, was diagnosed with leukemia. In 1979, Laura received the first-ever successful bone marrow transplant and it inspired her family to give other blood cancer patients a chance to live again through volunteer donors.
According to their website, Be The Match has facilitated more than 80,000 marrow and cord blood transplants and facilitate nearly 6,200 transplants a year—making them a global leader in bone marrow transplantation.
Be The Match partners with different individuals and organizations to host donor registry drives, where anyone can sign up and become a donor. They assist the organizations through event planning and coordination, media support and fundraising expertise.
“Be The Match does a lot of work with teams, schools and universities. We heard they particularly have worked with a lot of bands at other schools,” said sophomore clarinet player Ashley Penozynzyn.
The event took place on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Commons Auditorium. There are currently 118 members in the band and throughout the day, each member came together to run the event with Be The Match.
“We wanted to do this, because it is a good cause,” said senior drum major Eric Willenbrock. “Here we won’t play for everyone, but we wanted to help this specific community together, as a type of band community service.”
Members of the band said that about 30 to 50 people came to sign up to donate within the first three hours of the event. In order to join at the registry drive, prospective donors had to confirm that they were between the ages of 18 and 44, review the health guidelines and confirm that they didn’t have any of the listed health issues, and commit to donating to any patient in need.
Sophomore Liam O’Donnell stopped in to donate his time and bone marrow to the cause.
“I have a couple of friends in band, so I am here to support them,” said O’Donnell. “I have not heard of this type of thing before but I was happy to help someone who might need it.”
Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. Be The Match has a message on their website for prospective donors:
“The cure for blood cancer is in the hands of ordinary people. Join our cause. You could be the cure.”