Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tiger Bond Could Save Lives

To identify a possible bone marrow donor, all it takes is a swab on the cheek by a trained professional. For Mark LaForce, Wittenberg '75, this simple act may mean the difference between life and death for his teenage son, Blake.

Wittenberg's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity hosted a bone marrow drive yesterday after fraternity president Matt Wigton learned of Blake's leukemia diagnosis and the LaForce family's inability to find a suitable bone marrow donor due to his mixed ancestry. Many on the campus attended the event including the entire Wittenberg football roster in a show of support for their fellow Tiger and his son.

Blake LaForce, whose father was a standout lineman on Wittenberg's 1973 national championship team and a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblast leukemia in November 2007, just weeks after finishing the football season at Butler High School in nearby Vandalia, Ohio.

The disease can be treated or cured with a bone marrow transplant, and healthy people between 18 and 60 years of age can become registered on national and worldwide donor registries. In hopes of identifying a match for Blake, the LaForce family has embarked on an awareness campaign to educate the public and register more donors, with a particular emphasis on individuals with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. LaForce is one of more than 6,000 Americans in need of such a transplant, making the need for testing all the more acute.

We won the first NCAA Division III Football National Championship at Wittenberg with a great Tiger team, and through team effort Blake will be victorious because he has many caring people from Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and Wittenberg University on his team," LaForce said. "When something like this invades your family you really appreciate your fraternity of brothers.

"This is an opportunity to give back and help more human beings and save lives, because someone on the registry today is helping Blake."

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