Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive to be held April 19

Yale women’s ice hockey players assist potential bone marrow donors during an annual drive.
Yale women’s ice hockey players assist potential donors. (photo by Sam Rubin ‘95, Yale Sports Publicity)

The Yale Athletic Department will once again pay tribute to the memory of women’s ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz ’10 (1988-2011), whose courageous battle with cancer has helped save lives by inspiring participation in marrow donor registration drives.

The Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale, which is part of the nationwide “Get in the Game. Save a Life.” campaign for Be The Match®, will be held on Thursday, April 19, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is open to the general public. Donors who could help save lives are located through testing that consists of simple cheek swabs. The drive will take place on Cross Campus, near William L. Harkness Hall. No advance registration is required. 

To join the Be The Match Registry®, an individual must be between the ages of 18 and 44, meet certain health guidelines and be willing to donate to any patient in need. The donor test consists of simple cheek swabs and will take approximately 15 minutes. Those who are not aged 18 to 44 may still assist by volunteering and/or making a financial contribution to help add more donors to the Be The Match Registry®. Those unable to attend the on-campus event can signup to join the registry online.

Those who registered at previous drives are already in the registry, so there is no need for them to be registered again. Yale is seeking to add as many new potential donors as possible, so those who registered at previous drives are asked to find friends and relatives who have not registered and encourage them to take part in this year’s drive.

Yale’s Mandi Schwartz
In the past eight years, Yale’s Mandi Schwartz registration drives have added thousands of potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®, and at least 30 life-saving donor matches for patients in need have been located through the Bulldogs’ efforts.

Yale’s drives are part of the “Get in the Game. Save a Life.” program, which started in 1992 at Villanova under the guidance of head football coach Andy Talley. That program, involving college athletic teams organizing drives on their campuses, has resulted in tens of thousands of potential donors being tested. Larry Ciotti, long-time assistant football coach at Yale and former head coach at Hand High School in Madison, Conn., is a friend of Talley’s and brought the idea to Yale.

Talley has partnered with Be The Match® to take his efforts to the national level. He has received commitments from dozens of college football programs. The Yale athletic department has held drives each of the past nine springs, ever since Schwartz was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December of 2008. Yale’s record-setting drives have added 6,271 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry®, and at least 51 life-saving donor matches for patients in need have been located through the Bulldogs’ efforts.

Yale’s drives were led by the football team and women’s ice hockey team each of the first two years. In 2011, the field hockey team began assisting those two teams with the drive. The men’s soccer team has now joined these efforts as well. Members of the four teams help spread the word about the need for donors to their classmates, friends and relatives. On the day of the drive, they volunteer at the various stations set up to assist potential donors with the registration process.

Mandi Schwartz’s story has been one of the driving forces behind the success of the Yale drives. In September 2010 she required a blood stem cell transplant that was designed to give her a new immune system using two anonymously donated units of umbilical cord blood. A biopsy in December 2010 indicated that she had relapsed, and she passed away at home in Saskatchewan on April 3, 2011. Her younger brothers, Jaden and Rylan, play ice hockey as well. Jaden is with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and Rylan is with the Fischtown Penguins of DEL in Germany.

Schwartz’s plight shed further light on the needs of cancer patients everywhere, and the value of marrow donation. Every year, thousands of people of all ages are diagnosed with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases. Many of them will die unless they get a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from a matching donor. Seventy percent of these patients do not have a fully matched donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry® to find a genetic match to save their life.

Those interested in helping with the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale can contact Larry Ciotti with the Yale football team at [email protected].

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