On April 22, members of the Ithaca College football team walked around Ithaca College Campus Center in an effort to recruit members of the campus community to get their cheeks swabbed for the Be The Match Bone Marrow Drive hosted by the football program.
Be The Match and The Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation partner with football programs around the country to help raise awareness to recruit blood stem cell donors. Having a wide pool of stem cell donations are important because matches for individuals are usually found within their own ethnic group, so the more people that take the swab means the chance of finding a donor goes up. Stem cells are used to help fight cancers and blood related diseases. If a person is a match, bone marrow will then be taken from them and then given to the person in need of this form of treatment.
The event took place in the Emerson Suites and was run by a rotating shift of players over the course of four hours. Over 80 of the 137 players on Ithaca’s roster attended and swabbed themselves for the cause. The last time the program hosted a bone marrow registry event was in 2019, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, the football program held this event annually dating back to April 2011.
“Our players understood the gravity and the power of something like this, how it can affect someone even if you just don’t know who it’s going to be,” head coach Michael Toerper said. “But somebody’s going to have a direct effect on someone else’s life. You really can’t ask for a better opportunity, as a citizen, as a human being.”
Toerper, who the college announced as the team’s new head coach Feb. 18, first experienced Be The Match when he was a coach at John Hopkins University, in which he registered himself for the bone marrow registry. This college also hosted the event during his stint as defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2019.
“It’s gonna be very rare for you actually to be a match,” Toerper said. “But if you are, what an opportunity for you, and for that person. In your life, you really can’t ask for a better opportunity, as a human being.”
Now two years removed from its last event, the team was excited to once again work with the organization. Mike Hatcher, who was promoted to be the team’s associate head coach for the 2022 season April 21, said the event has been in the planning process since earlier this year.
“They contacted us in February about setting up an event later in the spring, and we were able to lock that date and that time in,” Hatcher said. “From there begin the process of informing, educating our players on basically what explained what the foundation is.”
Junior defensive back Mikey Porter was one of the members of the foot patrol team raising awareness for the event by walking around the Campus Center and talking with individuals about the event taking place. Porter said the team was excited to help run this event and possibly make a difference in the life of someone they may never even meet.
“We’re here to play football, but we’re also here to make a difference on campus and in our community,” Porter said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Around the noon rush, the event started to receive an influx of people. One of the attendees, senior Mia Potamianos, knew this simple procedure had the potential to make a huge impact on someone’s life.
“It feels like an act of good karma,” Potamianos said. “It was quick and easy, and I feel good knowing I could be the difference.”
Hatcher and Toerper made it a point to explain to their players the importance of being active in the community and being a force of good.
“This is an opportunity for us to be men of action,” Hatcher said. “That’s something when Coach Toerper got here. We talked a lot about that with the players and really having this holistic approach to our program where our guys are engaging in community service opportunities, which is one of the premier opportunities to do that.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Gio Fabi echoed his coach’s statements, understanding the impact of giving back to the community. Though it is only his second season with the team, he acknowledged his position at the college and the need to be a role model to others.
“[The community members] come out and support us every Saturday,” Fabi said. “So, I think it’s only fair that we support them in any way that we can.”