Saturday, March 18, the 5K for Education being held in Chapel Hill grants participants an additional opportunity to do a good turn: registration for the “Be the Match” program.

Operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, “Be the Match” is the “largest and most diverse’ marrow registry in the world. Over 13 million volunteers for the registry provide their information and are standing by to donate their bone marrow to patients who need it. Patients with diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, and other life-threatening diseases where a bone marrow transplant may be the only hope for a cure. Patients like 12-year-old Henry Gilchrist.

Henry and his family moved from the Chicago area to Chapel Hill in 2011. Eldest brother Max enrolled in Phillips Middle School while older brother Grant begun 4th grade and Henry started 2nd Grade at Ephesus Elementary School. Henry’s mother, Linda Gilchrist, likes to joke that he was “born with a ball in his hand.” An active child playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, it was during the basketball season that Henry’s parents began to notice his bruises weren’t healing.

Diagnosed in February of 2013 with Severe Aplastic Anemia, a disease that causes bone marrow to stop producing the blood cells the body so sorely needs, Henry, is an atypical case. He has already been through two bone marrow transplants, donated from his brother Max both times, and doctors have recommended a source outside of immediate family for the third time that will hopefully be the charm. Requiring multiple marrow transplants for an autoimmune disorder such as Henry’s is unusual, but it’s programs like “Be the Match” that make finding an acceptable donor possible and greatly increase Henry’s chances (and the chances of all the children like him) to get back to the normal life of a 12-year-old boy.

All that’s required is a simple cheek swab and the willingness to donate. Procedures are paid for entirely by the NMDP, and donors are never asked for anything outside of their time. Diverse ancestry is encouraged to meet more potential matching criteria, and blood type doesn’t matter. All are welcome to register, and that simple act may end up saving a life.