Members of the Grove City College football team put their bodies on the line for gridiron glory. Now, three Wolverine stalwarts are ready to do the same to help save lives.
Mason Muir, a senior fullback from Dubois, Pa., Trenten Rupp, a sophomore cornerback from New Bethlehem, Pa., and Isaac Munson, a senior cornerback from Erie, Pa. are slated to donate blood stem cells for patients desperately in need of bone marrow or blood stem cell transplants after an on-campus testing event identified them as matches for three patients.
The drive was organized by the football team as its annual service project and conducted by Be The Match, a non-profit organization that supports bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants in the U.S. through advocacy, research, support, and resources for patients. Thousands of people with blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other life-threatening diseases depend on a bone marrow or cord blood transplant to save their life.
More than 220 Grove City College students had their cheeks swabbed for DNA samples to identify potential donors and Be The Match analysis revealed six students – all members of the football team – as potential matches. Muir, Rupp, and Munson are perfect matches for three patients and are set to make donations.
“Once I found out what Be the Match was all about, I was 100 percent in on helping someone. The experience so far has been awesome, finding out that I can potentially help save a life leaves me speechless,” Muir, a Conservation Biology Major, said.
He matched with a 65-year-old man with a rare blood disease and expects to donate his bone marrow – a process that is described as grueling, but which Muir downplays.
“Donation is a simple procedure. I get put under general anesthesia and they take a needle and pull the bone marrow out of my hip. I will have a decent bruise on my hip as well as some soreness and stiffness for a week or two,” he said.
Rupp has been informed he is a match for a 3-year-old girl with immunodeficiency who has six months to live, but he hasn’t been alerted to when he will be called on to donate – most likely bone marrow. He downplays the idea that he is doing anything special and is just excited about the prospect that his healthy body can help someone in need.
"One phrase I live by is 'Your cause is bigger than yourself.' This story isn’t about me. It’s about contributing to more than just yourself. It feels great to know that the family of the recipient received a phone call the same day I did, letting them know there is a chance for their daughter to live,” said Rupp, a Management major.
“I encourage everyone who is medically stable to join the Be The Match registry. You never know how many lives you can positively impact by simply sending in a DNA swab,” he said. “Saving a life is something you’ll never regret. I promise."
Munson just learned last week that he was match for a woman in her 60s with acute myeloid leukemia. A Management major, Munson helped with a booth to sign up students for Be The Match. “Honestly, it feels great knowing that I could possibly save a person’s life,” he said.
Three other players were identified as possible donors but haven’t been matched with anyone yet. They are safety Cole DeFillippo, a junior accounting major from Jeannette, Pa., defensive end John Schwaben, a sophomore Management major from Akron, Ohio, and outside linebacker Ryan Fleming, a senior Sports Management major from Bridgeville, Pa.
The statistical likelihood of a match is 1 in 220 and finding six matches in a sample size is nearly unbelievable, Be The Match spokesperson Ronald Francois told The Collegian, Grove City College’s student newspaper.
Coach Andrew DiDonato ’10 and team chaplain Jim Thrasher ’80 helped organize the Be The Match drive. Thrasher said he was not surprised that the Wolverines defied expectations. “God blew that out of the water. He is using our players to impact others in saving lives. These guys are truly excited to see how God is going to use their healthy bodies in service to others who are in dire need,” he said.
To learn more about becoming a donor or supporting Be The Match, visit bethematch.org.