BOWIE, Md. – The Bowie State football team continued its tradition of community service this afternoon when the Bulldogs collaborated with Be The Match and Bowie State student Kayla Smith Owens in a marrow registry drive Wednesday afternoon.
“It was a great opportunity partnering with Be The Match,” said head football coach Damon Wilson. “This was a great opportunity for our football program to support Ms. Kayla and thousands of others across the world. We stress the importance of giving back in our program and helping others around us.”
The Bulldogs dedicated time to assisting current BSU senior Smith Owens who was diagnosed with sickle cell at birth. The criminal justice major did not start to experience any effects of the disease until she was 11 years old. Although her disease seemed to be manageable, it was not until she started college that Smith Owens would have to take time off from school because it appeared to be too much. While attending Bowie State, Smith Owens realized that there were other students fighting this disease just like her and she realized that she could help others by sharing her story highlighted by a round table discussion at the White House about sickle cell disease.
“I am super grateful that the football team is helping me and Be The Match find my match to see if I can find a lifesaving transplant to cure myself of the sickle cell disease,” said Smith Owens. “I am really excited to see everyone come out today and hopefully if we do not find a match for me, we can find a match for someone else that has either blood cancer or any type of blood disorder.”
Be The Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program and helps patients receive life-saving transplants. They are dedicated to raising awareness and funds needed to help all patients get the transplant they need. Be The Match focuses on finding potential donors ages 18-44, so it is critical that they register as many college students as possible. Their research shows that younger donors are best for patients because they provide the greatest chance for transplant success. Donors between the ages of 18 and 44 are asked to donate more than 90% of the time.
Every year, thousands of people of all ages are diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or other life-threatening diseases. Many of them will not survive unless they get a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from a matching donor. 70-percent of people do not have a donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match registry to find a match and save their life. Because tissue types are inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. Registry members of diverse racial and ethnic ancestry are especially needed, so every patient has the chance for a cure.
“Ms. Kayla was diagnosed with sickle cell and this is something that is near and dear to me as I have a few family members that are in the fight as well,” added Wilson. “Hopefully with the overwhelming response from our athletes and the campus community, we will be able to assist someone in need.”
For those interested in helping find a match, join the Be The Match Registry. All it takes is a simple cheek swab. Text “BOWIESAVES” to 61474 to save a life or my.bethmatch.org/bowiesaves.
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