BELDING — When 10-year-old Bree Town’s acute myeloid leukemia relapsed last month after a year of remission, the reaction from the Greenville community was immediate and overwhelming.
Several bone marrow and blood drives were quickly scheduled throughout the community, as Bree, a fourth-grade student at Baldwin Heights Elementary School, will now need a bone marrow transplant as she currently undergoes high dosage chemotherapy.
But Greenville is not alone in the mission to help Bree and other cancer patients. On Wednesday the Belding community reached out through the B Foundation to give a helping hand as well.
More than 80 people attended a bone marrow registry event at Belding High School, registering members of the community between the ages of 18 through 44.
The B Foundation partnered with Michigan Blood and Be The Match to hold the registry from 2 to 8 p.m. as residents had their cheeks swabbed for DNA, each person hoping that they may eventually be discovered as a match for Bree or someone else in need of a transplant.
The B Foundation, which was founded by Mikayla Linebaugh in 2011, raises money every year which it gives back to cancer patients and their families within the Belding community.
Linebaugh said her entire organization has been inspired by Bree’s story and strength in her battle against cancer, and after a few discussions, thought it best to hold the organization’s first bone marrow registry.
“Bree has touched a lot of lives in many different ways, she’s a Greenville kid and obviously we want to help in any way we can.” Linebaugh said. “We thought this was right up our alley for what we want to do. We got together a couple of times to discuss it and now here we are.”
Linebaugh said the registry event will likely be the first of many as it “fits perfectly” with the organization’s mission to help those battling against cancer.
“For us, this is an outreach toward people with cancer,” she said. “This goes directly toward our mission of wanting to help in any way we can.”
Belding residents were able to submit their personal information and have a cheek swab performed at no cost thanks to Michigan Blood, Be The Match and the B Foundation.
Keisha Park of Belding said she attended the registry drive hoping that she may possibly be a match for Bree or anyone else who needs a bone marrow transplant.
“If it was somebody in my family that needed it I would want people to help donate,” Park said. “And who knows, maybe that’s why we were put on this earth, to save a life.”
Each cheek swab costs $100 as the swabs are tested for tissue samples containing DNA.
According to Ryan Heinhuis of Michigan Blood, the organization fundraises throughout the year to pay for $75 of the $100. The remaining $25 per test is raised through additional fundraisers and donations through groups such as the B Foundation.
Heinhuis said the high cost of each test is the primary reason there is an age restriction of 18 to 44 years old for people to join the registry through the Be The Match registry events.
“Young donors produce the most successful transplants,” she said. “Be the Match only has a certain amount of money and we want to invest it in the best donors that we can. It’s the only way we can operate efficiently and effectively to best serve our patients.”
Michigan Blood and Be The Match will continue their efforts with three upcoming blood drives and two bone marrow registry drives in the Greenville and Belding areas.
For more information or any questions about donation qualifications, visit www.bethematch.org online.