Eric was a busy nursing student at James Madison University (JMU) when he and his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers started a Be The Match On Campus® chapter in an effort to help Eric’s best friend, Ryan, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
“Ryan said to me, ‘I have leukemia,’” Eric said. With just those three word’s Eric’s life was forever changed. “I was silent at first, and then I said, ‘What can I do to help?’”
When he connected with Be The Match at a local donor drive, Eric said he quickly realized that partnering with Be The Match was the best way he could help his friend.
“Joining Be The Match On Campus, (a growing movement of student-led chapters focused on increasing awareness and fundraising for Be The Match and recruiting volunteer registry members), helped me learn more about bone marrow transplants so I could grow my chapter and educate others about blood cancers,” Eric said. “I felt so lucky and blessed with the timing of this, to do this while I was in college, where the best donors are.” Young volunteer donors are selected by transplant physicians to donate more than 90 percent of the time.
As part of their efforts, Eric and his fraternity brothers started a fundraiser called Flight Against Leukemia where they raised money by taking attendees up on short airplane rides, selling aerial photographs and hosting a drawing for skydiving.
In addition to fundraising, Eric volunteered at Be The Match Walk+Run events and local donor drives and said these experiences add to his passion for our mission.
Where are Eric and Ryan now?
Today, three years after Ryan’s diagnosis, Eric is a registered nurse at the Johns Hopkins Hospital bone marrow transplant unit and regularly works at area recruitment events for Be The Match.
After seven rounds of chemo and a successful marrow transplant, Ryan is continuing on with his life cancer-free. “I’m doing great now,” he said. “I’m finishing up school and working, and I feel like I’m getting my life together.”
Ryan has been in contact with his marrow donor, a 29-year-old German man named Tobias. “We talk every week and I plan on going out to Germany next summer to meet him,” said Ryan.
Be The Match CEO Recognizes Eric
With years of dedicated service to Be The Match, Eric was awarded a Points of Life Presidential Award for Volunteerism.
As part of this honor, Be The Match Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Chell, presented the award to Eric at the Legislative Day dinner March 2 in Washington, D.C. According to Dr. Chell, introducing Eric to the patients, families and Be The Match staff who attended Legislative Day, showcased the vital support volunteering adds to our organization.
“Eric’s passion for our life-saving mission is amazing,” he said. “His long-term commitment to the cause honors his friend Ryan and inspires us all to deliver on the promise of blood and marrow transplantation.”
According to Be The Match Community Engagement Representative Dan Gariepy, “Eric is responsible for thousands of dollars raised to help our mission and is the driving force behind countless volunteer hours at James Madison University.”
“Just doing the right thing”
Eric said he is excited and humbled by the national recognition. And he is proud to honor his best friend, who was in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Along with helping our organization in the public, Eric was a featured speaker at the Be The Match On Campus annual Summit conference in Minneapolis. His passion for the program has stayed in the family with his younger sister, Corinne, now serving as the president of the JMU Be The Match On Campus chapter.
As he continues his volunteer efforts, Eric said this recognition will be a lifelong reminder of a great opportunity.
“It doesn’t feel like I am going out of my way – I am just doing the right thing,” he said. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to join the fight against blood cancers.”