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Eastern teams up with 'Be the Match' to connect donors with patients in need

Published on March 02, 2023

Eastern teams up with 'Be the Match' to connect donors with patients in need

Students volunteer to take cheek swabs.

Eastern men's soccer players volunteer to recruit students to take part in the registry.

Eastern Connecticut State University’s men’s soccer team recently joined forces with Be the Match, an organization seeking to find potential donors for patients with blood diseases. Students volunteered to take oral swabs during Eastern’s annual registry in the Sports Center lobby on Feb. 16.

The drive started in 2012, when Eastern men’s soccer player Jon DeCasanova ’17 was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer. According to Head Men’s Soccer Coach Greg DeVito, the Sports Center lobby was overflowing with student volunteers that year.

“We registered 600-and-something people,” said DeVito, noting that that was about six times the usual number of volunteers.

The donation process, which takes place after donors are identified, tends to be minimally invasive. “It’s actually very similar to donating blood; it just takes longer,” said DeVito. He added that the most invasive process involves a pelvic bone marrow donation, which occurs in less than 10% of donations.

Men’s soccer players, including Eric Kingue ’23, volunteered at the event and recruited potential donors. “I think we got a good amount of people in the first hour and a half,” said Kingue. He volunteered with teammate Ryan Toomey and others who were interested in carrying on this annual event.

Kingue and his fellow volunteers were successful in their recruitment efforts. Student Rebecca Ristow ’23 was recruited in a simple way: “I was walking, and the guy sent me in,” she said. Her motivation to donate was also simple: “I like to help out where I can. It would be cool if something good came out of it.”

Student Sydney Denoncour ’25 also did not expect to participate. “I was just sitting in the Student Center doing homework and some guys came up to me and told me about it,” she said. Denoncour is no stranger to the world of donation. “I’ve done things like donating blood before and it seemed like a nice thing to do today,” she said.

The effort of those involved, from the volunteering soccer players to the students who took time out of their busy schedules to take a swab, showed the power of coming together. DeCasanova was able to beat the odds with extensive treatment and a cord stem transplant. Also very important were the donations made by members of the Eastern community, who hope to save more lives with their simple generosity.

Written by Noel Teter