Virginia Coach Mike London and his wife, Regina, are in the planning stages of forming a charitable foundation centered on raising awareness and increasing participation in bone marrow registries, the coach said Monday.
The inspiration for the London’s idea was twofold: In 2003, their oldest daughter, Ticynn, underwent a successful bone marrow transplant surgery (Mike was the donor) to address Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic blood disorder that causes bone marrow failure.
Also this year, the Londons learned they were not they only ACC football coaching family to deal with Fanconi anemia. Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi, learned this past spring that their youngest son, Ethan, also suffers from the same disease. They founded the Kidz 1st Fund, which is raising money for Fanconi anemia treatment research, in August.
As Virginia (7-3, 4-2 ACC) prepares to play at No. 23 Florida State (7-3, 5-2) on Saturday, there also are plans to promote Fanconi anemia and bone marrow registry awareness this week. The Londons and the Fishers have taped a public-service announcement that will air in the stadium during the game, and there will be a bone marrow registry drive near the stadium beforehand. The London and Fisher families will meet privately at some point during the day before Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“For us, knowing that [Fisher’s] wife started his foundation, it kind of rekindled a desire for me personally, having had [Ticynn] go through successfully, kind of rekindled a desire in me to post-transplant to be involved with the bone marrow awareness and donor programs,” London said. “It’s not just Fanconi anemia; it’s a lot of things: cancer, leukemia, there’s just so many things out there that people are susceptible to.”
Since London took over as Virginia’s coach in December 2009, the Cavaliers football program has hosted an annual bone marrow registry drive. So far, two football players and one other university student have been found to be potential matches during those drives.
Former Virginia defensive tackle Hunter Steward was identified as a match, but ended up not being selected as a donor. Steward, who redshirted in 2009 and did not play in 2010, has since transferred to Liberty.
Last year, walk-on linebacker Trevor Grywatch was selected as a match and ended up donating stem cells that saved the life of an unidentified 60-year-old male. Grywatch said Monday he recently initiated the process of trying to meet with the man he gave his blood to, but it is unclear at this point whether he’ll have an opportunity to meet the man. Grywatch had to wait a full year after the procedure – which occurred in October 2010 – before beginning the process.
Grywatch, a senior from Ashburn, said he is a government major and hopes upon graduation this spring to secure either an internship on Capitol Hill or enter into the sports management profession in some capacity.
This year, university student Joel Loeshelle was found to be a match and donated bone marrow through a surgical procedure in his hip.
The Madison House, the student volunteer center at U-Va., recently began an initiative to host a bone marrow registry drive every month either on campus or in the Charlottesville community, Grywatch said. The group is focusing on recruiting minorities to join the registry, because, Grywatch said, “because it’s something that the registry desperately needs.”
As for Ticynn London, she just turned 16 and finished volleyball season at St. Anne’s Belfield School in Charlottesville. Mike London said Ticynn is doing just fine.
And that’s part of the reason why London is such an avid proponent of Be The Match bone marrow registry.
“There are a lot of families out there, whether it’s blood disorders, cancers, leukemia, whatever it may be that the awareness needs to continue to be raised, and there are a lot of people that do that,” London said. “But to use the opportunity, I guess the platform that both of us [he and Jimbo Fisher] have been provided, when it talks not only about our children, but other people’s children, other people’s loved ones, other people’s friends or whatever it may be, then it makes a cause well worth it.”