MLK Day Challenge: How You Can Save a Life in 10 Minutes

In just a few minutes, you could answer someone's prayer for a bone marrow match

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is the only federal holiday that encourages Americans to spend their day off doing something good for their communities -- just as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. did. The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is offering a simple way to participate in doing service on MLK Day: Sign up with Be the Match, NMDP’s international registry service that connects those in need of bone marrow transplants with potential donors.

Every year, an estimated 10,000 Americans with blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia need bone marrow transplants. But 70 percent of those patients won't find a match within their families, so they turn to the NMDP to find possible donors. But not every patient will find a match. The likelihood of finding a match is between 66 and 93 percent, depending on race or ethnicity. (Finding a donor that is a close match in terms of race and ethnicity improves the odds of a successful transplant.) So in addition to building its overall registry, Be the Match is also looking to increase donor diversity.

It's easy to become of part of that registry -- all you need to do is swab your cheek! After you submit an online form, NMDP will mail you a sample collection kit. You swab the inside of your cheeks, seal the cotton swabs into sterilized plastic bags, and drop everything into the mail in a postage-paid envelope. The entire process, from filling out the form to the trekking to the mailbox took me about 10 minutes, tops. You also can complete the process in person at an NMDP donor center if there's one in your area.

If you have pre-existing health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease or an autoimmune disorder or if you're over 60 you can’t be a donor, but you can still help patients in need of a bone marrow transplant by making a tax-deductible donation to Be the Match Foundation to help cover costs. Learn more at Be the Match or on the organization’s Facebook page and spread the word that Be the Match needs all the help it can get.

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