Thousands of people each year are impacted — in some way — by life-threatening blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.
Dickinson College football player Kyle Santorine is one of those people.
“Back in 1998, my younger sister was diagnosed with juvenile chronic myeloid leukemia, JCML, which is a blood disease,” Santorine said. “Her only hope for survival was going to be a bone marrow transplant. It turned out my mom was her match so she went in and donated to my sister.”
But tragically, Santorine’s sister eventually lost her battle with the disease.
Now, Santorine honors his sister’s memory by serving as President of Dickinson’s Be the Match Club, an on-campus version of the Be The Match program. The program strives to add new names to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and ultimately increase the chances for marrow matches that could, in turn, give a more positive outlook to people suffering from blood cancer.
Dickinson’s iteration of the program held its fourth-annual bone marrow registry drive Wednesday at the Holland Union Building — drawing in both Dickinson students and residents of the Carlisle area to add themselves to the NMDP. The drive was organized by the Dickinson football team.
“When I came to Dickinson and I found out that we do Be The Match, I knew I had to get involved with it,” Santorine said. “At the time (of my sister’s diagnosis), my dad was working at Cabrini College and he put on a Be The Match drive just like this one. We added just under 100 new people to the registry just while trying to find a match for my sister.”
Dickinson’s drives have helped to add 684 individuals to the national registry, 23 of whom were identified as potential matches and three went on to donate marrow or stem cells to individuals battling life-threatening illnesses. The college has raised more than $24,000 for Be The Match.
“The Be The Match program started at Dickinson around four years ago,” said Dickinson senior associate athletic director and football team defensive coordinator Joel Quattrone. “It came as a result of our desire to be a part of this Be the Match program that was founded by the Villanova University head football coach.”
The process in which each participant was added to the registry was actually fairly simple.
“Ultimately it all ends up with a cheek swab,” Quattrone said. “What the swab does is it provides DNA to assess whether there is a match within the registry. There is information that is brought forth that you have to provide to us and a lot of education goes on within that area. Then we just work through and get the swab and turn them loose.”
According to Quattrone, participation in the drive has been strong over the last four years.
“Turnout has been very good,” Quattrone said. “We do have a large freshman class that we are targeting (this year), and we are hopeful that we will bring a lot of Carlisle community members in.”
“It feels good to be involved,” Santorine said. “Obviously we are never going to reach our goal of a 100 percent match for everyone, but we can get as many as we can.”