Tenth Annual Mandi Schwartz Drive Adds 464 More Potential Life Savers

Boola and volunteers from the Yale Field Hockey team at the annual Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Boola and volunteers from the Yale Field Hockey team at the annual Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – With 51 life-saving marrow donations through its first nine years, the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale had given people plenty of reasons to celebrate heading into the 10th annual drive Thursday. This year's edition was another success, as the Bulldogs added 464 more potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®.

The Yale drive is named in memory of women's ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz '10 (Wilcox, Sask.) (1988-2011), whose courageous battle with cancer has inspired the Bulldogs' efforts.  Four teams -- field hockey, football, women's ice hockey and men's soccer -- are primarily responsible for organizing the event. Yale's drives are part of the "Get in the Game. Save a Life." program, which includes more than 100 schools nationwide. At the drive, donors that could help save lives are identified through testing that starts with simple cheek swabs. Yale has added a total of 6,735 people to the registry in 10 years of doing drives, and those 51 donor matches for patients with life-threatening illnesses are a product of those efforts.

Building on a tradition of success, there were some changes to the drive this year. Due to the ongoing renovation of the drive's previous location (Commons at the Schwarzman Center), the drive moved to a new location, Cross Campus, this year and was held outdoors for the first time. Two large tents helped shelter registrants and volunteers from the rain. Appearances by the Yale Precision Marching Band, along with mascots Handsome Dan and Boola, added to the festive atmosphere.

The "Get in the Game. Save a Life." program, involving college athletic teams organizing drives on their campuses, started in 1992 at Villanova under then-head football coach Andy Talley. The program has resulted in tens of thousands of potential donors being tested. Larry Ciotti, a longtime assistant football coach at Yale, is a friend of Talley's and brought the idea to Yale.

The Yale athletic department has held drives every spring since Mandi was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December of 2008. In the weeks leading up to the drive members of the teams involved helped spread the word about the need for donors to their classmates, friends and relatives. On the day of the drive, they volunteered at the various stations set up to assist potential donors with the registration process.

Mandi's story has been one of the driving forces behind Yale's efforts. Unable to find a matching adult marrow donor, in September 2010 she required a stem cell transplant using two anonymously donated units of umbilical cord blood. A biopsy in December 2010 indicated that she had relapsed, and she passed away at home in Saskatchewan on Apr. 3, 2011.

Mandi's plight shed further light on the needs of cancer patients everywhere, and the value of marrow donation. Every year, thousands of people of all ages are diagnosed with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases. Many of them will die unless they get a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from a matching donor. Seventy percent of these patients do not have a donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find a genetic match to save their life.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity 

 

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