Join for Joe – Senior Swab Day“Join for Joe” is said in my house almost as often as “good morning,” packages of swab kits are delivered frequently to my doorstep, and I often hear my high-schoolers announce “Hey, guess who swabbed today.” Almost three years ago, the name Join for Joe was born in my home office as I desperately searched for a way to brand the bone marrow drive that was being held at Loyola Blakefield in August of 2010. The drive was being held for Joe Gorman, a rising Loyola freshman who needed a bone marrow transplant. Through the kindness of a stranger on the national registry, Joe found a match and received his transplant, but his form of leukemia was too strong. After two-and-a half-years of valiantly battling leukemia, Joe passed away one day after his 15th birthday.
I cannot even begin to explain how devastating Joe’s passing was to my children, particularly to my son Dan, who was Joe’s friend and classmate at Loyola since 6th grade. Determined to make sure that Joe’s memory would live on, Dan (Loyola 2014) and Danny Finley (Loyola 2014), along with some of Joe’s other classmates at Loyola, decided in 2011 to honor his memory every year by running “Join for Joe Senior Swab Day.” Their goal was to register as many high school seniors for the national bone marrow registry as possible. They knew that Joe would want everyone to have a chance at life. This year, Join for Joe expanded as Notre Dame Prep joined the cause and hosted their own Join for Joe drive spearheaded by my daughter Allie (Notre Dame Prep 2015) and Fiona Hannafin (Notre Dame Prep 2016).
With the ongoing support of There Goes My Hero Foundation, Join for Joe has swabbed over 1200 people in 3 years, there have been 5 drives and four matches. Four people have donated bone marrow and given a patient in need a chance at life. At least two of the donors were college students (Loyola Blakefield graduates) who gave of themselves at a very young age to help a patient in need. We hear about the laziness, selfishness, narcissism, and “me first” mentality of the Millennial generation. I, however, see hope, optimism, and passion in these young people. They are making a difference today, and I have no doubt will continue to in the future. The drives will continue as annual events at both schools, as Joe’s siblings, Nick (Loyola 2015) and Juliana (NDP 2019), continue to be involved and honor their brother’s memory. The goal is to expand to as many high schools and save as many lives as possible. If these students could say one thing, it would be “save a life and Join for Joe!”