Fraternity hosts event to help former student

The UNA chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is hosting a “Be a Match” drive in the Guillot University Center Atrium Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in hopes of helping former UNA student Justin Sappington.

Be a Match is a community of donors, volunteers, health care professionals and researchers who deliver cures by helping patients get the life-saving bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant they need, according to the Be a Match website.

SAE president Justin Duke said the fraternity decided to host the event after a fraternity brother, Sappington, was diagnosed with Myeloid Dysplasia Syndrome in October 2016.

MDS is a type of blood disease where the blood cells do not mature into healthy cells, often leading to leukemia.

Those wishing to participate in the drive must be ages 18 – 44, of good health and willing to donate bone marrow to any patient they match, said Be a Match representative Rachel Harris.

To participate, donors will fill out basic information about themselves before volunteers swab their mouth. Officials will test the tissue sample from their cheek as a potential match for Sappington before going into the Be a Match registry, Duke said.

“Obligated isn’t even the right word,” Duke said. “It’s like when your family is in trouble, you know you have to do everything you can to help.”

If volunteers are a match, Be a Match will contact them to set up a procedure for them to give bone marrow, but the odds of matching someone are slim, Harris said.

Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. Patients’ best chances to find a matching donor is among their family. However, 70 percent of patients, like Sappington, do not have a match in their family, Harris said.

Duke said SAE hopes the Be a Match drive will find a match for him.

“This is a legitimate opportunity to change somebody’s life,” Duke said. “This is a guy who has a wife and kids, a guy who went to your university, and this could potentially save his life.”

Sophomore Dalton Shorette said the Be a Match Drive will be good for campus.

“it is a good thing,” Shorette said. “I don’t know what you could possibly have to say bad about a charity.”

Freshman Kat Hall said she will probably attend the Be a Match drive.

“If I were sick, I would want people to help me,” Hall said. “I think it is a really good thing.”