‘Be The Match/Atlanta’ seeks 1,000 new Black bone marrow donors

The ‘Be The Match’ organization distributed the following press release on June 17…

In honor of World Sickle Cell Day, Be The Match® has partnered with the city of Atlanta to raise awareness of the need for more Black and African-American donors on the Be The Match® Registry. Sickle cell is the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S. and is particularly pervasive in the Black community. One in 365 African-Americans are born with sickle cell disease and one in 13 African-Americans have sickle cell trait.

Sickle cell can be cured by a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant from a perfectly matched donor. For 30 years, Be The Match® has managed the largest marrow registry in the world. Unfortunately, Black patients’ chances of finding a match are lower than for other races and ethnicities. Black and African-American patients only have a 23 percent chance of finding a match by ethnicity on the Be The Match® registry compared to a 77 percent chance for White patients. Of the 22 million people on the registry, only four percent are Black/African-American. To help more Black and African-American patients find their cure for sickle cell and other blood disorders or cancers, more Black and African-American donors are urgently needed. 

“As the mother of two children with sickle cell disease, it is so important to not only build visibility for the disease itself but also to build awareness that there is a cure and that WE, as a community, are it,” said Shakeira Wesley, Community Outreach Manager, Be The Match® Atlanta. “With ethnicity being an important factor in finding a match, we need more Black people to join the registry to help save lives. Each one of us could be the match for someone suffering from a disease like sickle cell, leukemia and more. Becoming a donor for a patient in need is a selfless act that could save a life. We are the cure for each other.”

Be The Match® has partnered with the City of Atlanta to designate June 14-20 as “Cheek Week,” a call to join the registry with a simple cheek swab. 

“This is an SOS to the Black and African American community, as well as all community members from ethnically diverse backgrounds, to please step up and help save a life because we are the cure,” said Andre Dickens, the City of Atlanta Councilman who sponsored the Cheek Week proclamation. “We have the power within us to help change one more disparity affecting Black lives – and it starts with a simple cheek swab. I am confident we will make progress and help Be The Match improve the odds for Black and African-American patients fighting for their lives.”

Cheek Week began on Sunday, June 14, with a kick-off with a ‘Cheek Week Chat’ with celebrity host Rashan Ali. Kier “Junior” Spates from the Steve Harvey Morning Show, a sickle cell warrior himself, also participated in a ‘Cheek Week Chat’ with 10-year-old searching patient, Ava, who had her first pain crisis from sickle cell disease when she was just five months old. Over the past decade, Ava has been hospitalized over 70 times and had her spleen, adenoids, tonsils and gall bladder removed as a result of complications from sickle cell disease. She does not have any compatible matches in her family or on the Be The Match® Registry and has been looking for a donor match for over five years. 

‘Cheek Week’ will end with an Instagram Live virtual ‘Cheek Week’ Swab-A-Thon Dance Party @bethematch from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday, June 20, featuring 12 prominent Atlanta DJs like DJ Nabs, DJ Infamous, DJ Kemit, Ferrari Simmons, and more. For more information about ‘Cheek Week’ and to learn more about Ava or to join the registry, visit www.BeTheMatchATL.org.

Free resources for Sickle Cell Warriors

Be The Match® knows that managing sickle cell disease is hard. That’s why they are now offering FREE counseling for sickle cell warriors and their loved ones. Counselors can help you work through personal, social and emotional challenges you experience living with sickle cell disease. Learn how to improve your coping skills and quality of life with one-on-one counseling. You can also connect with certified nurses and patient navigators to learn more about the Jason Carter Clinical Trials program and transplant as a potential cure. Call the Be The Match® Patient Support Center at 888-999-6743 to get connected.

About Be The Match®

For people with life-threatening blood cancers – like leukemia and lymphoma – or other diseases, a cure exists. Be The Match® connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant. People can contribute to the cure as a member of the Be The Match® Registry®, financial contributor, or volunteer. Be The Match® provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during, and after transplant.

Be The Match® is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), a nonprofit organization that matches patients with donors, educates health care professionals, and conducts research through CIBMTR® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research®) so more lives can be saved. To learn more, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1-800-MARROW-2.