Record breaking number of York Region high school students sign up to save a life

Close to 3,000 students register for OneMatch Stem Cell
and Marrow Network

(York Region) – Canadian Blood Services and the York Region District School Board are thrilled to announce that following 31 separate swabbing drives at every secondary school in York Region, almost 3,000 students have now joined the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.  

Canadian Blood Services, through OneMatch, is responsible for finding and matching volunteer unrelated donors to patients who require stem cell transplants. The York Region District School Board partnership marked the first time that every secondary school in a school board had signed on to hold a swabbing drive. While Canadian Blood Services had initially aimed to have 2,000 students join the registry, the students’ support far surpassed expectations.

“We were blown away by the support we received from schools across York Region,” said Michael Betel, Director of Donor Relations. “These students will make a lifesaving difference for patients in Canada and around the world who are waiting for a stem cell match.”

High school students are a key demographic for the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.

Today, three out of four stem cell donors chosen to help save a life are male, and half of them are under the age of 36. With younger males with a diverse ancestry registering with OneMatch, Canadian Blood Services can better meet patients' needs and increase the likelihood of successful transplants.

“We are incredibly proud of our students and staff who have honoured the Watkin family by supporting the swabbing drives,” said York Region District School Board Chair Anna DeBartolo. “It’s truly inspiring to see our students so engaged in their community.”

The swabbing drives were organized by students at each high school and held in honour of the late Sarah Watkin. Sarah was only seven years old when she passed away from her battle with leukemia in November 2014. Mark Watkin, her father is a teacher in York Region and had previously organized multiple swabbing drives at a local high school as part of Sarah’s Drive for Hope, to try and find Sarah a match.

Mark continues to raise awareness for OneMatch to honour his daughter’s legacy and to give hope to other patients currently waiting for a stem cell match. In Canada, at any given time there are close to 1,000 Canadians waiting for a match.

“While adding new people to the registry won’t help Sarah, it will help someone else out there who is desperately searching for a match,” said Mark Watkin. “We hope that Sarah’s story will continue to inspire high schools and school boards across the province and the country to host swabbing drives.”

During a swabbing drive, students complete a consent form, health questionnaire and knowledge quiz before swabbing the inside of their cheek to collect cell samples. These cell samples are provided to the OneMatch registry to determine if they are a match for a patient in need.

The quickest way to register with OneMatch is by visiting our OneMatch Registration page. Registrants must be in good health, between the ages of 17 and 35 and willing to donate to any patient in need anywhere in the world.