Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive Tops Campaign with 843 Potential Life-Saving Donors
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – With the final numbers now in from across the country, Yale has officially led the nation in potential life-saving marrow donors added to the Be The Match Registry® through the "Get in the Game. Save a Life." campaign. Yale's total of new registrants at its drive, named in memory of women's ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), was 843. The second-best total was 581 from the University of Delaware. The "Get in the Game. Save a Life." campaign included 38 colleges and universities this year.
This year "Get in the Game. Save a Life." as a whole added 9,144 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®, an average of more than 240 per school. Most drives were held in April, including the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale (Apr. 18), though some schools held them in May or other months.
This was Yale's fifth year participating in "Get in the Game. Save a Life." The Bulldogs' five drives have now added nearly 4,000 people to the Be The Match Registry® and identified at least 17 donor matches for patients with life-threatening illnesses. Three Yale teams organize the drive each year -- field hockey, football and women's ice hockey. This year, the New Haven County Medical Association also assisted with the drive. The drive was also a part of the Yale Day of Service initiative.
Yale's drives have posted remarkable numbers ever since the first one in 2009 yielded more than 700 registrants. The record up until that point had been 630. The Bulldogs eventually shattered their own mark with 921 registrants in 2010. Yale has led the nation in registrants four times in five years.
The "Get in the Game. Save a Life." program started in 1992 at Villanova under the guidance of head football coach Andy Talley. The program, involving dozens of college football teams organizing drives on their campuses, has resulted in tens of thousands of potential donors being tested. Larry Ciotti, an assistant football coach at Yale, is a friend of Talley's and brought the idea to New Haven in 2009.
The registration process is simple -- paperwork and cheek swabs that take approximately 15 minutes. Once an individual has joined the registry there is no need for her or him to join again. Each year, the Bulldogs must find hundreds of new donors.
Getting large numbers of people to show up is only the first step in the process; getting those people to become donors is the ultimate goal. In that regard, the Bulldogs have been blessed with multiple role models. Lexy Adams '13 of the field hockey team was identified as a match and donated to a patient in need during her sophomore year. John Oppenheimer, a rising senior on the football team, donated this past January. Both are now part of Yale's group of 17 donor matches, and at this past drive they stationed themselves prominently near the drive location in order to convince others to join the registry.
The Yale drives started shortly after Mandi was initially diagnosed with cancer (acute myeloid leukemia) in December of 2008. She inspired people to sign up as potential marrow donors throughout the U.S. -- and in her native Canada and beyond -- in an effort to save her life. However, she was never able to find a perfect marrow donor match. In September 2010 she had a stem cell transplant (designed to give her a new immune system to help beat the cancer) 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 Wilcox, Sask., on Apr. 3, 2011 at the age of 23.
With the new additions to the registry, there is no doubt that the number of lives saved through Yale's efforts in memory of Mandi will continue to grow well beyond 17 -- a total that happens to match her uniform number. Each registrant remains in the registry until the age of 61.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity
2013 "Get in the Game. Save a Life" Registration Totals by School
Bowling Green 315
Holy Cross 280
Rhode Island 221
West Chester 214
Old Dominion 200
New Hampshire 184
Salve Regina 156
Southern Connecticut State 153
New Haven 85
Kentucky State 73