Be The Match 5K races for a cure

By Kia Smith

If someone you know is suffering from a blood cancer, one out of four siblings could possibly be a match transplant.

Registered Student Organization, Be The Match is hosting its first GLOW for the Cure 5K walk-run Friday to raise funds and awareness for the National Marrow Donor Program.

Kami Hofer, a senior from Buckley studying nursing and president of the SIU Chapter of Be The Match, brought the organization to campus in fall 2013. She said she was encouraged to do so after her experience donating.

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“I joined the registry in 2010 through a marrow and blood drive,” she said. “Sixty days later, I became a match for a 21-year-old female who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”

Hofer said her senior project for nursing classes influenced what she wanted to do for the program.

“Our project has to incorporate our undergrad experience as well as our goals in our career post graduation,” she said. “That is why I decided to raise awareness about the national marrow donor program and Be The Match.”

Betsy Ward, community engagement district manager of the north-central region for Be The Match, said over 70 diseases can be cured with a bone marrow transplant.

“Leukemia, sickle cell and lymphoma are just a few diseases that can be cured with a transplant,” she said. “We encourage more young people to donate because patients tend to do better with younger people.”

Be The Match looks for donors of the same ethnic background because a patient is more likely to find a match. For example, 97 percent of whites have a match, 76 percent of African-Americans have a match, and 83 percent of Hispanics and Latinos have a match. (According to an infographic on BeTheMatch.org.)

Hofer said because the chance of getting a match varies by ethnicity, having Be The Match on a college campus is essential.

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“We want people from all different ethnicities to join, and that’s why we decided to start Be The Match on campus because universities are so diverse,” she said.

Hofer said her biggest challenge is explaining to people donating bone marrow is not as painful as it seems.

“It’s literally like donating blood,” she said. “You register, then you get a cheek swab. Once your cheek swab comes back, you get a physical exam and then you have to get your blood drawn three times so the health care team can make sure the blood isn’t contaminated with anything that could harm the patient.”

Hofer said side effects to donating are minimal to none, but may include mild headaches and achy bones.

Ward said proceeds earned from the walk-run go towards research, patient advocacy and other aspects of the organization.

“Over the course of four years, since doing this walk, we have raised many thousands of dollars.” she said. “There is nothing more great or satisfying than helping patients find someone through our program.”

Hofer said she did not realize how much of an impact she had made until she received a heartfelt email from the patient she donated to.

“You can’t reach out to your recipient for a year,” she said. “She sent me the most amazing email back thanking me for what I had done. It made me feel really good seeing how it affected her and her family, and it made me want to raise more awareness.”

Personally having friends affected by different types of cancer, Hofer encourages students to get involved in finding a cure.

“If there’s something that you want to do, then you can do it. Joining the NMDP is one way to save a life,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”

The walk-run takes place from 6 pm to 8:30 pm Friday, April 11 in Carbondale and Saturday, April 12, in Chicago.

For more information on NMDP or Be The Match, visit BeTheMatch.org or BeTheMatchWalkRun.org

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