When a faculty member’s child needed a bone marrow transplant, Coach Joey Mariani, associate head coach of football and director of football operations at U of R, became aware of the urgent need for bone marrow donors. He rallied the Bulldog community to join the bone marrow registry, resulting in 400 new registrants from the U of R, which means 400 more possible lifesaving matches for those in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Now U of R has partnered with The Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation, a program that works with football teams across the country to host an annual “Get in the Game. Save a Life” drive, which aims to increase the NMDP — previously known as the National Marrow Donor Program and Be the Match — registry.
Students from the U of R football team, fraternities, and sororities volunteer at the drive to aid students, faculty, and staff in completing their swab kit correctly. The registration process is a swift online questionnaire followed by a check swab. Once registered, donors are in the NMDP system until a match in need is found.
Mariani emphasized that “people can help those in need by simply signing up. We need as many new, diverse people as possible to help increase the chances of those in need finding their match. Witnessing people excited about helping others and working towards a common goal is what makes this drive so special.”
Calvin Hyytinen ’24, an environmental science major, football player, and member of Alpha Gamma Nu, volunteered in 2023 and again at this year’s drive on January 24. He said “working the drive is a rewarding experience and contributes toward a great cause. We aim to increase the number of potential donors in the system each year, striving for a strong turnout each year.”
Every year, approximately 18,000 individuals (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) could benefit from a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. However, most patients do not have a fully matched donor within their family and must turn to the registry of unrelated donors.
Anika Lundbaek ’25, an environmental science major and public policy minor, volunteered with Kappa Pi Zeta at the drive. Anika knows firsthand how critical it is to get people on the registry — her friend’s best friend was told she had just two weeks to live, “and she was notified of a donor who could save her life. So, I’d say this is really important work. It’s super easy and you should definitely participate for those reasons.”
To learn more about the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation, click here.
To learn more about NMDP or to join the donor registry, click here.