Elon University football players took to campus today, but instead of their usual plays and passes fans are used to, the players were holding signs and helping people register with Be The Match — a national marrow donor program. People who signed up today will join the national registry of donors, which could provide a match for someone who needs a blood transfusion.
“You never know who's affected by it,” redshirt freshman Will Lankford said. “As athletes, we’re trying to engage people on the field, but being off the field is just as important.”
This is the seventh annual drive Elon’s football team has helped with. Elon community members were also able to sign up via a QR-code to become a donor. Once signed up, participants swabbed their cheeks and submitted the samples. If a participant is selected as a match, they will receive further instructions on what to do next. Three Elon students have become donors since the drives started.
Recruitment Coordinator in North Carolina and Tennessee Cavin Villarreal said coming to college campuses is a great way for Be The Match to ensure diversity on the registry, leading to more matches for those who are in need.
“It directly impacts the community,” Villarreal said. “A lot of times, organizations raise funds, you don't really see where that money's going. With Be The Match, you're putting something into action, and you can see that direct impact in your community and in those around you.”
Be The Match hosts drives on campuses, but also churches, breweries and other locations. One of the people at the Elon drive today was Director of High School Relations for Elon University football Hal Capps, who said the service the team does gives someone “a second chance” at life.
"This makes me more proud of Elon than anything at all,” Capps said. “Elon has always been supportive of others and it just proves it again.”
While not all students will connect with the cause, Lankford said his family has been directly impacted by transfusions and the difficulty one may have in finding a match. He also said he hopes by adding donors to the registry, Elon will be able to give those in need of a transfusion something else too: hope.
“You're going through days where you don't necessarily know if you're going to find a donor, and you're just continuously hoping and praying. It does take a mental toll on you,” Lankford said. “But wherever you find one, there's just this relief, and I think that us doing this is going to add a little bit more security and knowing that there are a lot of people out there that are potential matches for whatever you may be needing.”
Kyra O'Connor contributed to the reporting of this story.