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Bone marrow, beanies and Bulldogs

by Luanne Williams

Bone marrow, beanies and Bulldogs may not seem to have much in common. But Waxhaw native Taylor Powell, a Wingate University junior, has found a way to connect all three on April 12, while at the same time honoring the memory of her best friend.

First, bone marrow: Powell is coordinating a Be The Match event that day to help connect blood-cancer patients with potential donors. Participants can have their cheeks swabbed to become part of a national registry.

And beanies? Powell’s role with Be The Match is the result of her starting a Love Your Melon club at Wingate. The apparel brand, founded in 2012, aims to give a hat to every child battling cancer in America and to support nonprofit organizations that lead the fight against pediatric cancer. So far, LYM has given away 133,000 beanies and more than $4.5 million. Be The Match is one of 25 organizations that Love Your Melon supports.

“The reason I brought Love Your Melon to campus is that my best friend, Haley Smith, passed away from cancer when she was 15,” Powell says. “And one of the last things I told her is that I would do something to honor her name and to help other people with cancer.”

Her student organization has about 20 members. They promote the sale of Love Your Melon knit caps and other items to raise money for the cause. They also reach out directly to cancer patients and their families – for instance, by visiting the Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte.

“It’s a blessing to be able to help in any way we can,” Powell says.

So what does any of this have to do with Bulldogs? April 12 will mark Wingate’s third annual One Day, One Dog event. It’s a day when every student, alum, employee and supporter is called on to give, serve and celebrate.

While annual-fund coffers get a boost, students like Powell are taking leading roles in a dozen service projects. As the day draws to a close, they will all celebrate as One Dog.

Powell says she doesn’t expect thousands of people to be swabbed for Be The Match that Thursday, but she’s eager to make a difference in the community and attract as many potential donors as possible to boost the bone-marrow registry. And she’s especially happy that it will happen on a day set aside to celebrate her university’s commitment to service.

“We had planned to do a Be The Match event a few months ago but had to cancel because of the flu outbreak,” explains the communications major. “So when we decided to reschedule, we figured why not do it on One Day, One Dog?”

The Be The Match drive is open to the public and will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on McGee Promenade. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 44 may drop by and have a painless cheek swab to capture a DNA sample for potential matching to a cancer patient.

As a result of prior Be The Match events on Wingate’s campus, 2015 graduate Jasmine DeBerry Thompson donated bone marrow to a young girl with sickle cell anemia, and tennis coach Michael Cabana became a stem-cell donor.

Find out more about One Day, One Dog and how you can give, serve and celebrate.

March 21, 2018