Angela Liu, 17, of Morgantown, West Virginia, a junior at Morgantown High School, started a club at her school that organizes events to help save the lives of those with blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, by expanding the pool of potential bone marrow donors. Angela first learned about the shortage of life-saving donated bone marrow two years ago from an older friend who wanted to start a chapter of the Be The Match registry network at West Virginia University in her hometown. “There is a high demand for bone marrow transplants but the supply is dangerously low,” Angela said. “Many people have to wait weeks while their situation worsens waiting for a donor. Without a transplant, they have less than a 10 percent chance of survival.” She wanted to help by starting a club at her school to expand the efforts in her town.
She began by researching the Be The Match National Marrow Donor Program and met with an organization official who said her club would likely be the first at the high school level. It was difficult to find a teacher to advise the club, but eventually she did, and recruited 30 student members. Working with WVU, Angela and her club run drives to sign up donors, who are given cheek swab kits that are then sent to the registry for testing. When doctors have patients who require donated marrow, they turn to the registry to find a match. Angela estimates that each of her drives adds about 40 potential donors to the registry, and she is now advising students in other towns on starting their own clubs.