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Big Red efforts result in cheek swab drives for national bone marrow registry

Jaime and Jodie Vick

Jaime (left) and Jodie Vick. Jaime underwent a second bone marrow transplant in August.

On a beautiful day this past May, Cornell head women's basketball coach Dayna Smith was enjoying a round at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course with her brother-in-law, Dave Vick.

Vick was in town with his wife because their son, Josh Vick '12, a member of both the Big Red football and track and field teams, had just undergone knee surgery on his torn ACL and meniscus.

The day ended with tears and disbelief when the Vicks received the bad news -- their daughter Jaime's leukemia had returned. Jaime, one of the couple's twin daughters, had beaten cancer twice before, but it was back, just months before the 26-year-old teacher was scheduled to be married.

"Being with Dave when he got that call was one of the worst things I've ever experienced," says Smith. "No parents want to hear that their child is sick, but for Dave and Debbie [Smith's sister] it was even worse because they've been through it twice before, and they know just how hard it can get."

Coach Dayna Smith with nephew Josh Vick '12

Cornell head women's basketball coach Dayna Smith with her nephew, Josh Vick '12.

Jaime's first bout of leukemia struck when she was 14, and she suffered a relapse at age 20. She underwent chemotherapy both times; during the second round she received a bone marrow transplant from her twin, Jodie. This time, doctors felt that another transplant from Jodie would not be successful, so they turned to Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry.

Immediately, Smith and Josh Vick approached Chris Wlosinski, the Andrew '78 and Margaret Paul Assistant Director of Athletics for Student Services, about helping to organize a cheek swab drive to find potential donors for Be The Match.

"Even though I felt pretty confident that Jaime would find a match because we had seen the process before, I really wanted to do something proactive that I knew could benefit others," Josh Vick says.

It turned out that another organization on campus, Cornell Hillel, was already planning a donation drive, so the two groups joined resources and had such a successful drive that they ran out of kits before getting through everyone who had arrived to donate.

Cheek swab drive

A cheek swab drive for bone marrow screening was held this summer by Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry, and Cornell Hillel. A second drive will be held Oct. 1 by the Cornell Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Red Key Society in conjunction with the Seat Selection Line at Lynah Rink.

A donor for Jaime was indeed found, and she underwent her second bone marrow transplant in late August. Her condition is improving, and her doctors are cautiously optimistic.

"I saw firsthand how important Be The Match is, and Dayna, Chris and I really wanted to keep helping," Josh Vick says. "Lots of groups have wanted to get involved, and we found a great opportunity when [men's ice hockey] coach Mike Schafer said he wanted to help."

As a result of Schafer's involvement, the Cornell Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Red Key Society will host a Be The Match cheek swab drive for both the Ithaca and Cornell communities Oct. 1 in conjunction with the Seat Selection Line at Lynah Rink.

Community members can be screened for Be The Match beginning at 4 p.m., before the seat selection begins at 7 p.m. The donation center will located at Bartels Hall in the hallway that separates Lynah Rink from Newman Arena.

In addition to the cheek swab, SAAC and Red Key Society are soliciting donations for Be The Match, which estimates that it costs the organization approximately $100 to process each cheek swab. To offset some of that cost, the Cornell Hockey Association and the Cornell Football Association have committed a $2,000 gift.

"I am amazed and extremely thankful when I think of how many people have gotten involved in this cause because of my niece," Smith says. "To have so many people I work with help to raise awareness about something so close to my family is just remarkable, and it really makes me appreciate the Cornell and Ithaca community even more than I did before."

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