April 3, 2012

Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale Set for Thursday, Apr. 19

Drive Open to Public, Could Help Save Lives

Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale
Part of the "Get in the Game. Save a Life." Program for the Be The Match Registry®

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In recognition of the impact her courageous battle with cancer has had on efforts to save lives through marrow donor registration drives, the Yale athletic department will once again hold a drive in memory of women's ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz '10 (Wilcox, Sask.) (1988-2011). The Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale, which is part of the nationwide "Get in the Game. Save a Life." campaign for the Be The Match Registry®, will be held on Thursday, Apr. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this year. The drive, which takes place at Commons on the corner of College Street and Grove Street in New Haven, is open to the general public. Donors that could help save lives are located through testing that consists of simple cheek swabs.

The Yale athletic department has held drives each of the past three springs, ever since Mandi was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December of 2008. Yale's record-setting drives have added nearly 2,500 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®, and at least six life-saving genetic matches for patients in need have been located through the Bulldogs' efforts. That includes Yale junior field hockey player Lexy Adams (Lancaster, Pa.), who donated to a patient with cancer in December 2010.

Yale's drives were led by the football team and women's ice hockey team each of the first two years. Last year, the field hockey team began assisting those two teams with the drive. Members of all three teams are now spreading the word about the need for donors to their classmates, friends and relatives. On the day of the drive, they will volunteer at the various stations set up to assist potential donors with the registration process.

In addition to the three Yale teams, the drive is also scheduled to include appearances by Yale's live bulldog mascot, Handsome Dan, and Yale's costumed mascot, Boola. Food will be served.  Further details about the plans for the day will be announced at a later date.

Mandi's story has been one of the driving forces behind the success of the Yale drives. In September 2010 she required a stem cell transplant, performed at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, that was designed to give her a new immune system 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. Her younger brothers, Jaden and Rylan, play ice hockey as well. Jaden was a first-round draft pick of the NHL's St. Louis Blues in 2010 and just signed a contract with them after completing his sophomore season at Colorado College, where he played with Rylan. Jaden scored his first NHL goal Mar. 17.

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 people 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.  

To join the Be The Match Registry®, a person must be between the ages of 18 and 60, meet certain health guidelines and be willing to donate to any patient in need. The donor test consists of simple cheek swabs and will only take approximately 15 minutes.

Those who registered at previous drives are already in the registry, so there is no need for them to be registered again. Yale is seeking to add as many NEW potential donors as possible, so those who registered at previous drives are asked to find friends and relatives who have not registered and encourage them to take part in this year's drive.

Yale's drives are part of the "Get in the Game. Save a Life." program, which started in 1992 at Villanova under the guidance of head football coach Andy Talley. That program, involving college athletic 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 and former head coach at Hand High School in Madison, Conn., is a friend of Talley's and brought the idea to Yale.

Talley recently partnered with the Be The Match Registry® to take his efforts to the national level. He has received commitments from dozens of college football programs. In each of the past three years, Yale has registered more potential donors than any other school in the program. That included 704 registrants in 2009, 921 in 2010 and 869 in 2011.

There are now more than 9.5 million people and nearly 165,000 umbilical cord blood units in the Be The Match Registry®, the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse registry of its kind in the world. Since the registry began operations in 1987, it has facilitated more than 50,000 transplants to give patients a second chance at life. Today, it facilitates more than 5,500 transplants a year.

Those interested in helping with the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale can contact Larry Ciotti with the Yale football team at larry.ciotti@yale.edu or (203) 671-9805.

Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale:

 

Be The Match Registry®:

Mandi Schwartz:

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