East Carolina junior Cam Walker will hold a basketball tournament on ECU’s campus Saturday in order to work towards gaining numbers for the national registry list of bone marrow donors for patients in need of transplants.
This year roughly 44,000 people will be diagnosed with leukemia and will need a match with a blood relative or compatible stranger through the national registry for a bone marrow transplant to have the best chance at survival.
Walker is the student president of the ECU ambassador organization for The Gift of Life that is in its third year. There are approximately 100 students across the United States involved in this organization, whose main job is to inform communities across the US about the importance of bone marrow registry and how to get involved.
Their goal is to swab and register 500 people per year in order to give people diagnosed with cancer a better chance at finding a donor. According to the Institute for Justice, 70 percent of all patients are in need of a random donor and only two percent of all people in the US are currently signed up for the registry.
“Being president of an organization like this means a lot to me because I have the opportunity to lead my peers while helping grow an important cause,” Walker said.
The Gift of Life was started by blood cancer survivor Jay Feinberg. While trying to find a donor for bone marrow, he and his parents started holding fundraisers to register people for the national registry. When it looked as though all hope was lost, the Feinberg family found a donor on the last person who registered in their final fundraiser. The donor was originally not involved in the drive at all, as they filled in for a friend who was sick and was coaxed out of their fear of needles to give samples in order to become registered.
Walker has been organizing this tournament, to be hosted at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, with Campus Recreation and Wellness since November, which will have a 12-team single-elimination bracket with random seedings in the front two courts of the Student Recreation Center from 11 a.m to 7 p.m.
About halfway through the day, Walker, along with other representatives from the organization, will hold a halftime event in order to talk about the tournament’s cause and the importance of bone marrow registry. Along with that, a word from the tournament sponsors, Stilllife, JoyRun!, Stretch Zone, Title Boxing and more, as well as a knockout tournament will take place with raffles, prizes and food on the side.
“Our message for the halftime presentation is not to take your health for granted,” Walker said. “Your health can change and before you speculate and assume you should be able to know the right causes. This cause shouldn’t be taken lightly because every life is important.”
Walker’s organization will hand out t-shirts to participants as well as give medals, stadium sports and various other gift cards, water bottles, wristbands, Chipotle coupons and more to the first and second place finishers.
The chance to register for the national registry will be going on during the tournament and will place in the gym. It’s as simple as having four Q-tips swab each wisdom tooth, or space where a wisdom tooth was, which will then be sent to the nonprofit organization to test for matches of waiting patients on the list. Walker’s goal is to register 100 new members.
“This is really important to me to reach this goal because I’m trying to expand registry so more lives will be saved,” Walker said.