UW Fitness Day a catalyst for blood cancer awareness campaign

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This year’s UW Fitness Day included a fundraising and donor registration goal for Be The Match, the nation’s largest registry of bone marrow donors. More than 250 new donors were added to the registry during an event on Red Square.

Following UW Fitness Day 2023, a donor registration and awareness event, called Get in the Game, took place on Red Square in support of Be The Match, intended to increase awareness of its lifesaving marrow and stem-cell research and donor registry among students.

Volunteer student athletes helping to spread the word about Be The Match pose for a group photo after the event on May 9 / Lorenzo Hill

Be the Match is an education, research and advocacy organization managing the world’s largest marrow registry which helps connect people living with life-threatening blood diseases and cancers with life-saving donors. Learn more about their partnership with UW here.

Alexes Harris poses with Dubs II at Get in the Game / Nicole Reeve-Parker

UW athletes led the peer-to-peer education effort, with athletes and coaches from UW’s football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and track teams participating.

Alexes Harris, UW professor of sociology, was the inspiration for the registry event. Seven years ago, Harris was diagnosed with a form of leukemia that required a bone marrow transplant – but she couldn’t find a match, because of the lack of people of color on the registry.

Harris participated in a clinical trial at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and had a cord blood transplant that saved her life.

Watch: Alexes Harris draws attention to low representation of people of color in bone marrow registry

Listen: “A Mother’s Day Appeal”: Cord Blood Recipient Dr. Alexes Harris UW Dept. of Sociology (S4 E24) (buzzsprout.com)

“I work with Be The Match in the name of people who did not find a match and were not able to live,” Harris said. “The Be The Match bone marrow registry literally cures cancer.  While we can’t cure all cancers, stem cell transplants can cure over 70 blood disorders, including the type of leukemia that I was diagnosed with 7 years ago.”

A student picks up her swag after signing up for the registry / Lorenzo Hill

This year, nearly 100 UW donors pledged $1,000 to support Be The Match, and student volunteers signed up 262 donors to the registry during the May 9 event.

Learn more about how you can help save a life

Although the official Be The Match and UW partnership is the first of its kind, Get in the Game (GITG) is not a new concept. Created by Coach Tally of Villanova University, GITG is a nationwide series of events hosted by university football teams.

The mission of GITG is always the same: spread the word about Be The Match and show students the impact they can make by joining the registry.

Why Joining the Registry Matters

Registry donors save lives. People living with life-threatening blood diseases and cancers need life-saving donors.

Having a 100% match is crucial in predicting positive outcomes post-transplant, but the percentage chance of finding a perfect match is skewed against minorities because ethnically diverse and mixed race donors are underrepresented in the registry.

A student picks up her swag after signing up for the registry / Lorenzo Hill

While Caucasians have a 75% chance of finding a full match in the existing marrow registry, African Americans only have a 19% likelihood of finding a match and comprise only 7% of the United States registry.

People of color, particularly those with mixed ancestries, are encouraged to consider becoming potential donors. Growing and diversifying the registry’s pool of potential donors increases peoples’ chances of finding a match.

Why college campuses? Be The Match is especially looking to register potential donors between the ages of 18 and 44. College students are ideal donor candidates!


Support Be The Match through the UW Combined Fund Drive

Consider making a one-time, monthly, bi-monthly, or annual monetary contribution to Be The Match through the UW Combined Fund Drive. Your donations can be deducted from your paycheck to make contributions simple. Log in to your personal donor portal and enter charity code 0456651 to get started.