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Basketball team hosts bone marrow drive to support Rutgers alumna

Rutgers alumna, Gianna DeVietro (right) was diagnosed with Leukemia last July. The women's basketball team is planning a bone marrow drive for Sunday to register potential donors. – Photo by Courtesy of Facebook

The Rutgers women’s basketball team will host a bone marrow drive on Sunday to show support for a Rutgers alumna who is fighting cancer.

The drive will operate from 1:30 to 4 p.m. immediately before the Scarlet Knights’ game against Northwestern, according to their website.

The nonprofit organization Kier’s Kidz is operating the drive to support Gianna DeVietro, who graduated in May 2016. DeVietro received a bone marrow transplant two months ago after being diagnosed with leukemia, according to the Scarlet Knights' website. 

DKMS is an international non-profit organization, will be at the event to register potential donors, according to the website.

“I got sick after graduation on July 18 and the only thing that kept me strong was the idea that I would be able to somehow turn this experience for the better. I failed my first chemo and had to get two more before I was eligible to get a bone marrow transplant,” DeVietro said.

DeVietro said she asked the women’s basketball team for help planning the drive because they were a second family to her during her time as team manager.

Out of the 20 million people worldwide who are potential matches, she said only 250 matches are found each year, which represents a 1 in 80,000 chance.

When the women’s basketball team asked how they could help, DeVietro mentioned the bone marrow drive because she had previously held a smaller drive in her neighborhood, she said.

The team put DeVietro in touch with Larry Perfetti, who has since been the middle man between DKMS and the team, she said. Perfetti’s daughter died a few years ago and he kept her foundation, Kier's Kids, running in her honor.

“Our managers are the backbone of our team that largely go unrecognized, but do so many of the everyday tasks (that) are of the utmost importance to the success of our teams. Everyone wants to give back to Gianna because she gave so much to us. When something like this happens to a member of our family, everyone is devastated about it,” said women’s basketball head coach Vivian C. Stringer in an interview with Scarlet Knights.

The registration process for the bone marrow drive consists of swabbing the inside of a person’s cheek. The information is then uploaded to the bone marrow agency, where it is kept until a match is found. 

“I really hope we have a great turnout. All a person has to do at first is get their cheek swabbed and fill out a form. It takes (two minutes). It is extremely important because there are people who die or have to go an alternate not as safe route to find a cure. I want to save others (lives) like my 30-year-old donor saved mine," DeVietro said. 

DeVietro said participants in drives like this one can mean the difference between life and death.

"I hope this will bring awareness that you have the power to save a life and that's a decision that should at least be talked about and considered,” she said.

Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.

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