Be The Match calls students to help fight cancer

Joseph Schulz, Regional Editor

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Be The Match will be holding its spring “Get in the Game” drive in Reeve Union on April 11 and 12 where students can get information about how to register to donate peripheral blood stem cells or bone marrow.

Be The Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit organization that helps people with different types of blood cancer find compatible donors.

Be The Match has partnered with the UW Oshkosh football team and the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau to raise awareness for the spring drive.

Be The Match Community Engagement Specialist Jessica Klingberg said they will no longer be adding potential donors to their registry on campus.

“The purpose of the table would be to help inform people or remind them to register, answer questions, things like that,” Klingberg said.

Klingberg said students can register online themselves at join.bethematch.org/uwo or by texting UWO to 61474.

Klingberg said once students register online, if they are eligible, they will be mailed a swab kit.

“All they have to do is swab the inside of their cheek,” Klingberg said. “Then you put [the swab] in the kit and mail it back in.”

Klingberg said if the swab shows that a student would be a potential match, then they receive a call from Be The Match asking if they would like to move forward.

“Once they determine they’re interested, we schedule a blood test,” Klingberg said. “What we’re ultimately testing is their human leukocyte antigen. We’re also trying to make sure there’s no infectious diseases that the donor has that we can rule out early in the process.”

Klingberg said after the blood test, the donor is introduced to a patient diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or another life-threatening disease.

“Just with the spring drive alone, we’ve recruited over 1,100 Oshkosh students, and I can confidently say every semester since we’ve started a chapter at Oshkosh, we’ve had one student from Oshkosh go on to save a life, every single semester,” Klingberg said.

Klingberg said after the blood test, it is determined whether donors will donate stem cells or bone marrow.

“Within 72 hours of that collection, your marrow or your stem cells are being put into that patient that needs you,” Klingberg said.

If students don’t or cannot donate stem cells or bone marrow, they can still get involved. Klingberg said students can contact her via email at .

“We will be having a voluntary information session Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 6-7 p.m. in Reeve 209,” Klingberg said.

UWO football head coach Pat Cerroni said his involvement with Be The Match began about five years ago when he responded to an email from the Be The Match Director for Community Blood Centers.

“Next thing you know Brett Kasper gets picked; he gives his bone marrow to a young girl, and a year later we invite her to a game and this thing just explodes,” Cerroni said. “This year we’re at four guys that have donated so far.”

Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau Sales and Service Manager Jodi Jensema said the CVB got involved with Be The Match when the CVB assisted Cerroni in bringing Kasper’s match, Phoenix Bridegroom, and her family to Oshkosh.

“We have been able to stay in contact with Phoenix and her family and have brought them to Oshkosh a total of three times for different games and for Brett’s senior banquet,” Jensema said. “I have also traveled to Indiana twice to visit her, along with the Kaspers. And we will all be together next week in Philadelphia for the Be The Match gala. This experience has been life changing for me; I have made lifelong friends with the Kaspers and the Bridegrooms.”

Cerroni said students should consider joining the Be The Match registry because it gives them the opportunity to save a life.

“There’s probably only 75 percent of our team that’s on the registry,” Cerroni said. “I tell them flat-out, if you ain’t gonna commit to it, don’t go on. The whole thing they talk about is quality more than quantity. So you’re looking for true people that genuinely want to help.”