Bone marrow drive tries to get thousands signed

The National Marrow Donor Program came to Florida A&M University on Thursday to educate and recruit as many black students as possible to become bone marrow donors.

NMDP set a goal to register 1,000 FAMU students as donors. NMDP Recruitment Specialist Rod Gunn said Grambling State University was the first among Historically Black Colleges and Universities to register 1,000 students for donation in one day.

“Their president wrote every president at every HBCU and challenged them to meet or beat their 1,000 student donors,” Gunn said.

Stacy Toney, recruitment specialist at FAMU, the goal is to increase bone marrow donors in the black community.

“The only way black patients survive is if they have a matching black donor,” Toney said. “There’s about 6.5 million people registered in the U.S. to donate, and of those, less than half of 1 million are African Americans.”

The best donors are young and healthy.

“We are targeting HBCUs because they are one of the biggest audiences for black people.” Toney said.

Gunn said it is crucial to get black donors because most of the news we hear about blacks is bad news.

“Only 17 percent of black patients who ever need bone marrow transplants recover because there are not enough black donors,” he said.

NMDP’s objective is to also bring awareness to young black people.

“About 95 percent of the time when we tell people about the bone marrow program, they don’t know what it is, “Gunn said. “I hope to leave students with a true understanding of the commitment they are making to the community.”

Toney worked all week to educate the students at FAMU.

“I have been talking to residents, deans, faculty, classrooms and showing videos,” he said. “I inform them that donating bone marrow can beat more than 40 diseases.”

Jovanka Morgan, 20, a junior sociology student from West Palm Beach, is a member of the National Council for Negro Women, which helped promote the event.

“We hear cases about students on other campuses that have died,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to bring awareness. You never know when it’s going to hit close to home.”

Randy Henley, 21, a senior political science student from Fort Lauderdale, is a bone marrow donor but said he finds it difficult to educate students about registering for donation.

“It’s hard to talk about health on FAM’s campus because they don’t care,” Henley said. “They feel they know all about it or it doesn’t affect them because it hasn’t hit home.”

Arielle Castex, 18, a freshman pharmacy student from Atlanta, said volunteering was something she felt compelled to do.

“I like to see us as a student body coming together for one cause,” Castex said. “It’s saving lives. It’s not like everyone is coming together to party.

Castex was even inspired to work to educate more people about bone marrow donation.

“I plan to go to Atlanta this summer to volunteer some more because they’re (NMDP) located there,” she said.

Alex DeJarnett, coordinator for Greek life and community, said he was impressed with how informed students have become as a result of NMDP’s promotion.

“We do not know the turnout estimate, but we expect the numbers to be high,” DeJarnett said. “I think we are going to establish a long-term partnership with NMDP so they can get more students, like at student orientation.”