Gopher football team recruits bone marrow donors

6:35 PM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - It's almost strange to see University of Minnesota Football players wearing their jerseys without any pads underneath them.

But, as they walked around their locker room Wednesday afternoon, the fact that they didn't have their shoulder pads on made it easier for people to see their hearts.

"I've been able to lean on them so much," Junior Wideout Connor Cosgrove remarked.

Cosgrove, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in late 2010, helped rally the players to hold a Bone Marrow registration drive for "Be the Match." 

The players' goal was to get 1,750 people signed up in one afternoon.

There will be five more locations for people to register at the U of M on Valentine's Day.  Click here for details. 

"A human being can be cured by another human being and I think that's pretty special to immediately impact someone you've never met," Cosgrove told KARE 11.

While Cosgrove didn't need a transplant, he continues monthly Chemotherapy appointments.

"It's been a process. It's been a journey, but like any great journey, there's going to be a reward at the end.  I'm blessed to be here today," the wide receiver explained.

Dozens of players helped people sign up for the "Be the Match" program and national registry. Others helped people swab their cheeks.  All told, the process to register and get into the database takes about 10 minutes.

Maly Lee of St. Paul wasn't there to swab her cheeks. She was there to support the football team that, in a way, adopted her family.  Connor and his teammates are now rallying behind Lee's 6-year-old daughter Jiena and her son Mason, who is 11 months.

"We're looking for donors for both Jiena and Mason," Lee said.

The Lees have been looking for matches for two of their children for months now. Recently they learned that there wasn't a good enough match for either child on the national registry.

"We need to grow it overall, but especially in the multi-cultural populations," Julie Slipka of Be the Match in Minnesota explained.

The Lees are Hmong and that has made it more difficult to find a match.

"Because it's based on tissue typing, it's best to find somebody of our same background. It's still somewhat of a taboo topic so it's been hard," Maly said.

But Jiena, a little trooper so full of life, fights on.  Now, she has a football team behind her.  It's a good start, and it started in the heart of Connor Cosgrove. 

Today is a gift and I appreciate that," he concluded.

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