DANBURY, Conn. — When 17-year-old cancer survivor Anna Port had to choose a project for her peer leadership class at Danbury High School, she knew immediately that she wanted to help others with cancer.
As part of the project — called “Battling Blood Diseases" — Anna and her classmate Kimberly Meerman will run a bone marrow drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 1 at Danbury High.
“When I was 4 years old, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I received chemotherapy at Yale-New Haven Hospital for two years. I lost my hair and missed a lot of school," Anna said.
Although Anna has been cancer-free for over 10 years, the memories of being sick have stayed with her.
In 2013, Anna's cousin Cory participated in a bone marrow drive at Western Connecticut State University "as a response to my being diagnosed," she said.
Bone marrow transplants can help people with a variety of cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as blood diseases, iron deficiencies and sickle cell anemia.
"Cory ended up being a match for someone. He helped save the life of a little boy who had Hurler syndrome -- a blood disease," she said.
"My cousin inspired me, and I wanted to do something to model after that," Anna said.
Through Be The match, a nationwide donor organization, Anna and Kimberly organized all aspects of the bone marrow drive.
On the day of the drive, volunteers from Be The Match will be on hand to perform a simple, pain-free test: Each potential donor will have the inside of their cheek swabbed with a Q-Tip.
"This takes just a few seconds, and from it, you can tell people's DNA to see if they would be a match for someone," Anna said.
"If they are a match, they will get a call at a later time but are under no obligation to donate a blood marrow if they should change their mind," Anna said.
Her goal is to get as many people as possible to come out to get the swab.
"A lot of people in need of this transplant aren't able to match with someone in their family, so it's important to open this up to outside people," Kimberly said. "We hope that by starting small in our school and our community, we will be able to spread the word and inform people of this life-changing, life-saving process."
The peer leadership class gives seniors the opportunity to take a leadership role, make a difference in the community and set an example for younger students through a project.
For more information on donating blood marrow, click here.