Over the past two weeks, more than 50 people have registered for the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry in response to student tabling in the Memorial Union by the University of Maine Gift of Life group.
Courtney Hatton, a fourth-year biology student, and Rachel Emerich, a fourth-year nursing student, are both campus ambassadors for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry and started the donor drive on campus. They are president and vice president, respectively, of Gift of Life UMaine, which they are hoping will soon be an officially recognized club on campus.
“Being seniors who will be soon leaving, we want to see the organization stay on campus and keep growing,” Hatton said. “It’s easier to do that with an established club than reestablishing the event year after year.”
In an effort to keep the club growing, Hatton and Emerich said they are still recruiting interested members as well as swabbers.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), more than 17,500 people every year are diagnosed with an illness for which a bone marrow transplant is the best treatment option. The Gift of Life Marrow Registry plays a role in reaching out to potential bone marrow donors nationwide, including on college campuses.
Getting on the registry is easy enough. The first step is to fill out a health form that can be downloaded and completed on an app called “Swab App;” from there, participants give a cheek swab from each corner of the mouth. The health information and cheek cells are sent to a lab in Florida where a human leukocyte antigen profile is made to mark the individual’s blood type.
Once this process is completed, participants are are officially registered as a marrow donor.
Those who took advantage of that opportunity at the tabling event were also able to sign up for a raffle which will be drawn on Nov. 16. There is the chance to win food, prizes or tickets for whale watching.
Two students who happened to be walking by for lunch were happy to swab their cheeks for a good cause.
“Why be selfish? If I have something this simple that could help people, why not?” Phillip Haines, a fourth-year athletic training student, said.
Scott Sleeper, a business administration master’s student, agreed.
“Five minutes isn’t much of a cost to help someone,” Sleeper said. “Anytime you get the opportunity to potentially save a life you should of course take advantage of it.”
This event is aimed at encouraging young people to register as marrow donors because they can be on the registry for a long time, increasing the chances that they will match with someone.
This fall is the first year Hatton and Emerich have hosted a marrow donor drive on campus. After getting their cheeks swabbed in the spring, they both applied to be campus ambassadors through the national Gift of Life Marrow Registry, located in Boca Raton, Florida.
Hatton and Emerich said they hope, as a Student Government-recognized organization, to work with as many other clubs and groups on campus and host fundraising events for their cause.
If anyone is interested in the Gift of Life Marrow Registry they can email Courtney Hatton at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by if they are tabling in the Union, which they plan to be continue doing until the Monday before Thanksgiving break.