New on-campus group helps kids beat cancer through bone marrow donations

A group of University of Miami students hand out information packets and take cheek swabs. They answer hundreds of questions and send out emails. They are doing their part to help save lives.

Amelia Ellison and Brittney Francis, along with a few other friends, have teamed up with the non-profit organization Kids Beating Cancer, Inc., to reach out to college students for bone marrow donations.

Kids Beating Cancer is contracted with the National Marrow Donor Program to provide community outreach and education, and to recruit and test new volunteers for the donor program throughout the state of Florida.

The sophomores have held bone marrow drives through Kids Beating Cancer on campus and in the surrounding community throughout the past year and are now in the works to become a student-run club.

“My aunt works for Kids Beating Cancer, Inc., in Orlando and she was doing some marrow drives around Miami, and I wanted to see if I could get her a nice location on campus like the Rock or the breezeway. I was researching and I thought ‘Why don’t we just do it ourselves?’,” Ellison said.

Ellison and Francis now await a meeting with the Committee on Student Organizations in order to review guidelines and file paperwork to become an official club, which is called Canes Recruiting Marrow Donors.

“I think it’s a very rewarding registration process,” Francis said. “With everything that you do, you get closer and closer to making a difference on campus. And also, through the process, you gain respect from your peers because you’re asked to find 25 people who agree with the foundations of the club.”

Once Ellison and Francis submit their ideas to a group of peers for review, they hope to spread knowledge and information throughout the university and the community. They want to stress the importance of being registered and how much it can help anyone in need of a marrow transplant.

“I think the registration is the easiest part of this process. It’s the things you do afterward that are much more difficult. Sustaining membership, holding successful events, and promoting your cause are all important but challenging aspects of an ongoing process,” Ellison said.

Bone marrow donations and transplants can aid in the recovery of patients with anything from leukemia and myeloma to severe anemia and plasma cell disorders. The process of donating bone marrow is very similar to that of donating blood, and persons of the same ethnicity are usually the best matches for one another. Seventy-seven percent of patients who are in need of a bone marrow transplant are not direct matches to anyone in their family, which stresses the need for donations from various races and ethnicities.

“If you register to join the national registry, you don’t necessarily have to donate,” Francis said. “If there is someone that you match and could potentially be a donor for, the registry will inform you and ask you if you want to be a donor. That’s why it’s much better to donate if you’re skeptical. You can always change your mind.”

If their meeting within the upcoming weeks is successful, Ellison, Francis and their friends hope to make Kids Beating Cancer, Inc., proud of what they’ve done.

“We’re hopefully going to be the first student volunteer run branch of Kids Beating Cancer [in the country]. They’ve been serving as our parent organization by funding marrow drives and being our contact with the National Marrow Donor Program, and in order to serve our purpose, we hope to increase the number of members to the registry in Florida and to volunteer at local hospitals in order to better understand the situations of the families and patients,” Francis said.

If all goes as planned, Canes Recruiting Marrow Donors will be holding its first general body meeting in the next few weeks and students will be able to come and find out about events and plans for the upcoming semester. Plans are now in the works for a banquet and silent auction for sometime next year.

“We’re a new club, and we’re open to suggestions,” explained Ellison.

Students interested in sharing ideas can contact the club at

Christa Ruggiero may be contacted at