Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Teach

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Tom Teach’s commitment to Be The Match® started when his 4-year old grandson, Ben, was diagnosed with ALL and AML. Ben received a bone marrow transplant and for nearly six beautiful months after, Ben laughed and smiled as a cancer-free little boy. But when Ben’s leukemia returned, nothing could be done. Tom and his family said goodbye to their sweet boy in February 2015.

Today, Tom is a dedicated member of the Foundation’s board and a passionate champion of Be The Match. Tom is a Navy veteran and he and his son spoke at the Naval Academy and with the help of the Department of Defense, recruited more than 700 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®. Tom continues to participate in leadership roles at registry drives at the Naval Academy. As a Notre Dame alum, he utilizes his contacts to raise awareness and help recruit registry members at Notre Dame games. He has also extended his efforts to Goshen College and Bethel College.

In addition, Tom has become a tireless fundraiser for Be The Match Foundation®. He helps acquire key sponsorships for the Be The Match Walk+Run event and participates with his friends and family as “Team Ben.” Over the past three years, his team has raised more than $165,000 for the Chicago Be The Match Walk+Run.

“Tom’s service to Be The Match is an excellent example of true volunteerism,” says Nicole Kersting, Senior Development Manager at Be The Match. “In addition to his recruitment and fundraising efforts, he is willing to step in with any in-kind request large or small through his foam packaging company.”

The impact Tom continues to have on patients and their loved ones is huge. Due to Tom’s efforts, more patients are able to get a second chance at life.

Looking to get involved? Find a volunteer event near you.

Meet Lorayne, Peer Connect volunteer

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Lorayne, transplant recipient and Peer Connect volunteer with her grandchildren

Lorayne was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in October 2011, and 5 months later received a transplant from a donor in Germany.

She remembers how bewildering it was to get her diagnosis and how hard it was for her to process all the complexities of getting a transplant.

So she was grateful that her transplant team didn’t just focus on her medical and physical needs, but also helped her connect with someone who had been through the transplant process. That person was Wendy, a Peer Connect volunteer, who helped Lorayne address her fears and anxieties about transplant.

And now Lorayne wants to give back and help others going through the transplant process. She has been a Peer Connect volunteer for about 4 years now.

“Everyone’s journey is difficult,” she says. “I feel like they want to know that they can do this.”


Forming special bonds

Be The Match started its free Peer Connect program because transplant patients and caregivers reported that they benefited a great deal from talking with someone who’s “been there” and “gets it.”

“A lot of people just need to talk,” Lorayne says. “I understand what they’re going through. I had all those fears and worries, too.”

Lorayne, now a grandmother of 7 and 5-year-old grandsons and a 2-year-old granddaughter, was a kindergarten teacher. Because of her profession, she says that she knows how to be an active listener, which she says is critical to transplant patients and caregivers. “As a teacher, I think I have the temperament,” she says. “I’m encouraging and empathetic.”

Some people have frustrations with their family or their medical center, she says. One way Lorayne helps people is by giving them a chance to verbalize those frustrations, which allows them to unburden themselves.

“My experience as a volunteer is that people are so ready to talk ─ and need to talk,” Lorayne says. “They want information, they want their fears and anxieties addressed, and they want reassurance.”

Part of that reassurance for patients and caregivers is simply talking to someone who has successfully gone through the transplant process, says Lorayne. “I think back to my experience talking with Wendy. She got through it and she was alive. People want to know there is life after transplant.”


What to expect from the Peer Connect program

The Peer Connect program matches volunteers with patients or caregivers based on the request. Some people want to talk to someone who is close to their age. Other people may want to connect with someone who has the same disease or other life circumstance.

In one instance, Lorayne connected with someone who had the same type of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) that Lorayne did. Talking with another person who also had to deal with GVHD of the liver helped that patient a lot, Lorayne says, but the connection was also a learning experience for Lorayne and their connection gave comfort to both of them.

Lorayne’s approach when assigned a Peer Connect patient is to email the person first, to arrange a convenient time to talk on the phone. The first call can be as long as needed, Lorayne says, and begins with Lorayne asking about their experiences and their current situation.

“As they’re able to talk, I’m able to share my experience with them,” Lorayne says. “They can expect a listening ear, a comforting volunteer, who will be there for them even beyond a phone call.”

Typically, Lorayne and her connections will talk again or connect by email a few more times. “As volunteers, we’re always there for follow up,” Lorayne says.

Request a connection

If you’re struggling with your transplant recovery, you are not alone. No matter where you are in the transplant process and recovery, and whether you’re a transplant recipient or caregiver, our Peer Connect program can connect you with a trained volunteer who’s been there.

Visit BeTheMatch.org/peerconnect to request to talk with a Peer Connect volunteer.