Eight years after his first visit to campus, Earl Young, visits York University to bring awareness about the need for bone marrow donors. Young spoke in The Well, on Monday, April 17, of two defining moments in his life. The first being when he competed at the 1960 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the 4 × 400 meter relay and the second being when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2011 and given three months to live. He shared how one event changed his life while the other changed his faith.
Young was fortunate to be matched with a bone marrow donor, but right now only 4 out of 10 patients with blood cancer will have that chance. With that in mind, after his recovery, Young felt called to share his experience and partner with Delete Blood Cancer to grow the national bone marrow registry.
Anthony Hodson with Earl Young
Earl Young’s Team focuses the majority of their efforts on college campuses “because they offer large groups of young, robust candidates who can remain in the registry for decades, and because their energy and spirit are exactly what’s needed to spark a nationwide movement.” Since 2015, Young’s Team has added over 20,000 people to the donor registry.
After shipping delayed the process until Wednesday, business professor Tim Lewis led 120 York University students and employees in the process of “swabbing” at The Well. The process to join the donor registry was as simple as three mouth swabs and filling out a form.
“I believe the swabs were delayed so that one of you could have more time to decide to register,” said Lewis. “I believe one of you will be a match.”
When asked why they chose to swab, students like Anthony Hodson said, “I try to help people whenever I am given the opportunity. There is literally no cost to me; it felt selfish not to.”
“Earl’s story was very powerful and I loved that he’s chosen to travel around the country to share it,” commented Bekah Powell who also chose to swab. “I had a family member pass from leukemia when I was younger, and to be able to do something for the better means a lot to me.”
Dalton Bergstrom, a former YU student, “swabbed” in April 2015 and matched with a patient in 2016. He donated his stem cells on April 19, 2016 to a then 25 year-old male.
“When I heard Earl’s story all I could think about was how this one thing, something that seemed so simple, could greatly impact a recipient’s life and the lives of those around them in such a positive way,” shared Bergstrom.
Every 27 seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with blood cancer. For many patients, a bone marrow transplant is the best chance for survival. Only 30% of patients find a matching donor in their families; 70%, approximately 20,000 each year, must rely on a benevolent stranger to step up and donate.