Hosting Bone Marrow Drives On Your Own

In order to expand our public outreach, There Goes My Hero needs to be able to host bone marrow drives more frequently, and in more locations. Doing so increases the number of potential donors, matches, and life-saving transplants that we are able to provide. Despite our significant impact, TGMH is not a large-scale organization. Sometimes, especially when we have many drives going on, our three immediate staff members can be spread very thin. Because of this, volunteer assistance continues to be vitally important as TGMH keeps growing.

Although it requires considerable effort, running drives as frequently as possible is the key to accomplishing our mission. With every additional drive we do, and with every additional swab we receive, the greater the odds that a blood cancer patient can find a match. Volunteer assistance goes beyond assisting us at drives; you can recruit donors outside of drives, educate community members about the bone marrow registry, and recruit them as volunteers. Additionally, we would love to have our more experienced donors become so familiar with the drive process that they can do drives on their own. This would be a great method of support, and it could increase our number of registered donors without straining our resources.

Step 1- Get to Know the Drive Process: If you want to be able to do drives of your own, you should first become very familiar with the drive process. This means coming to our drives if you haven’t already, being comfortable explaining our mission to the public, and adding people to the bone marrow registry. Know the answers for frequently-asked questions and try to be prepared to field unusual ones. There are resources on our website and you can always reach out to staff with questions or for more written information.

Step 2- Figure out the Logistics: Once you are fully confident in your ability to hold a drive, you will need to be able to store, transport, and document swabs correctly. We can get you the materials, but in order for them to arrive in time for a drive we have to give our partner DKMS advanced notice of at least one week, preferably more. So start scoping out events and locations early in order to avoid any missed opportunities. 

Step 3- Contact the Organization: Reach out to the location where you hope to do a drive and share with them TGMH’s mission as well as some general information about how a drive operates. If you can, it’s usually best to meet with a representative of the organization in person. If they are willing to do a drive, make sure that they will provide a table and chairs– the floor is less comfortable than it looks. If the organization doesn’t have a table and seating available, you can pick these up from There Goes My Hero’s offices when you go to get the rest of the supplies.

Step 4- Pick Up Drive Materials from There Goes My Hero: Doing a drive involves a lot of moving parts, but the most important of these are the swabs themselves, the envelopes to place them in, and the registration forms. You will also need water bottles and paper cups, a stopwatch or a cellphone timer, any flyers for events and about the bone marrow registry, a table cloth, and maybe some complimentary items to hand out to people who stop by. All of these will be included in our rolling drive box.

Step 5- Do It!: By now you’re very familiar with the drive process, know the location where you’ll be doing your drive, and you have everything you need to do one. Once you have the table set up all you need to do is get people engaged. Many people will come up to you out of curiosity, others may pretend not to notice. If someone seems to be interested from afar, do your best to be friendly and engaging. This way they’ll be more likely to swab, but even if they don’t they’ll still be more likely to remember you and Hero. Once someone signs up, be sure to sign the witness line on the form and to include the drive code in the upper-right corner of the form.

Step 6- Return Drive Materials: As easy as it may seem just to send drive materials back to our partner DKMS, all of the drive supplies need to be returned to There Goes My Hero to be documented and shipped. All swab kits and envelopes, used and unused, need to go to Hero so they can be counted and mailed. Try to do this as quickly as possible, because the longer the wait until the swabs reach the lab, the more likely it is that the DNA won’t be preserved. 

Step 7- Repeat!: Now that you’re a pro, you can schedule bone marrow drives whenever you want. Just confirm with a location at least two weeks ahead of time, notify Hero to get it approved, and then make it happen. With your help we’re one step closer to finding a match for every blood cancer patient who needs one!