Temple students host stem cell donor drive

Five students collaborated with DKMS, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting against blood cancer, to raise awareness about lymphoma.

Fiona Hitesman, a junior public relations major, stands near DKMS' table that aimed to raise awareness for lymphoma in the Howard Gittis Student Center on Mar. 8. | BRIAN MENGINI / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As people filed in and out of the Howard Gittis Student Center, students standing beside a “save a life, become a donor” sign greeted incomers, asking if they wanted to drink hot chocolate and learn about lymphoma. 

Five Temple University students held a stem cell donor drive on March 8 in hopes of spreading awareness about lymphoma, a blood cancer, and the Lymphoma Research Foundation, a non-profit organization funding lymphoma research. They partnered with DKMS, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting against blood cancer, to host the event, which took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the atrium of the Student Center.

There are more than 825,000 people living with, or in remission from, lymphoma in the United States as of 2020, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

Constantine Van Sickle, Lindsi Smith, Arlene Isardat, Fiona Hitesman and Brianna McDevitt – the students who hosted the donor drive –  are enrolled in a Public Relations capstone class where students compete in a national public relations competition called The Bateman Case Study. The research topic changes each year, and this year, its focus was lymphoma. 

To raise awareness, the students took over Instagram accounts within the Klein College of Media and Communication, posting about the Lymphoma Research Foundation. They also created an Instagram account, @eraselymphomatu, encouraging users to visit their doctor and learn about their health. 

After their social media takeover and campaign, the drive was the last method the students implemented to share information about lymphoma, said Van Sickle, a junior public relations major.

Van Sickle hopes the event will not just aid in potentially saving someone’s life, but educate individuals on the severity of the disease, he added. 

“Even if someone doesn’t sign up to become a donor, they’re now more aware about themselves,” Van Sickle said. “They are aware that they can develop cancer no matter what age, and it’s not an old person’s disease, it’s everyone’s disease.”

Smith feels their efforts to inform and encourage the Temple community to donate plasma will be beneficial both now and in the future. 

“We’re going to be saving lives, and it’s going to be impacting real people,” said Smith, a senior public relations major. “Even if it’s 10 years from now, it’s still someone’s life.” 

At the drive, individuals drank hot chocolate and learned about Lymphoma’s symptoms and side effects. 

Many gave saliva samples, which will be sent to DKMS to potentially match them to a blood cancer patient in need of a stem cell donation. They were given a large, white envelope with a form and three cotton swabs inside to collect the sample. 

Isiah Dixon was the first person to participate in the drive yesterday. He volunteered because he always tries to donate whatever he can whenever he can.  

“I’m actually hoping that I’m a match for a lot of people, so that I can save as many lives as I possibly can,” said Dixon, a security officer in the Student Center. 

Grace DiMeo entered the Student Center yesterday to purchase her graduation gown, but instead found herself sitting in a windowsill swabbing the inside of her mouth. 

She feels it is important to do things like this while she is still young and healthy because it can benefit others who are not in good health. 

“A lot of college students take their health for granted,” said DiMeo, a senior advertising major. “​​We might be in the prime of our lives right now, and we don’t know what life is going to throw at us down the line, so I feel like if you put some good karma into the world now, it’ll come back later.” 

Hailee Elko had not heard about lymphoma and its effects until discovering the @eraselymphomatu Instagram account last month, but believes the students’ efforts will aid in educating others about Lymphoma. 

“I feel like I’m doing something good, and I’m learning about something good,” said Elko, a junior advertising major. 

Van Sickle hopes it will leave a lasting impact on not just those who attended and donated samples at the drive, but those who may be saved by these efforts in the future. 

“If you think about it, we have the possibility to help save people’s lives through offering people to become a donor, and not every day you can do that,” Van Sickle said. 

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