None of us really knew what we were getting into. We really didn’t even know what a bone marrow drive was; we just knew that it might be able to save our friend’s life. I saw a movie with Joe during his treatment for leukemia one afternoon while my mom ate lunch with his mother. On our way home that day, I was told how important a bone marrow transplant would be in Joe’s recovery while also learning that nobody in his family was a match.
Two months later, I helped to lead a huge committee that spearheaded a bone marrow drive under the name “Join for Joe” at Loyola Blakefield that added nearly 1000 people to the national registry. Joe came to the drive himself with a smile and confidence that impressed everyone there. He knew he would find his match and completely recover.
Through the kindness of a stranger, Joe did find a match. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. His cancer was too strong and ultimately took his life in March of 2011. Joe wanted every single leukemia patient to have a match, and in order for that dream to be realized, more people need to be added to the registry. The first “Join for Joe Senior Swab Day,” a drive focused on adding high school seniors to the registry, happened that spring.
We finished the third of these high-school oriented drives this year. My sister Allie now runs her own Senior Swab Day at Notre Dame Prep, and Maryvale brings students to Loyola for our drive. I’m shocked by how it has grown from just a conversation in the car with my mom. We’ve added over 1300 people to the national registry, are part of the non-profit There Goes My Hero, and plan to expand even more for next year.
Joe was like any other kid. He loved sports, was incredibly competitive, would not hesitate to correct someone if they said something factually incorrect, and always had a comment about why the Yankees were ahead of the Orioles every year. He also won a fantasy football league by beating me in the championship game. That league still exists and is now named in his honor. Not that it really matters, but I haven’t made it back to the championship game since. Naming the league after him was just sort of a given once I learned he had passed away three months after claiming the title. He just deserved it.
I cannot begin to say how many times I’ve been asked why I put so much time into these drives. I guess it’s the same reason why I named the fantasy football league after him; he just deserves it. He wanted everyone to have a match, and far too many people unfortunately do not. So it only makes sense to put forth effort into trying to find matches for others. We’ve found four already, and that number will hopefully grow.
This fall, Joe’s class will enter its senior year of high school. This is the year to make Join for Joe Senior Swab Day big; the goal is to add 100% of Loyola’s age-eligible seniors to the registry in May while also continuing to involve other local schools. 100% is a lofty goal, but we as a class want to honor his memory in the best way we possibly can. He deserves that.
Dan McLoughlin, Loyola Blakefield 2014