Mandi Schwartz ’10 died on April 3, 2011. She was my teammate and my friend. We played ice hockey together at Yale until her leukemia stopped her. Every April since Mandi’s original diagnosis, the field hockey, football and ice hockey teams have sponsored a joint bone marrow drive, and the event continues today in her memory. Each year, we try to recruit as many people to join the bone marrow registry as possible. Each registrant means one more chance that someone with leukemia will find a life-saving match.
Mandi never found her perfect match; she was only 23. Our hockey team flew to Wilcox, Saskatchewan, to attend her funeral. Fittingly, it concluded on the ice, at the Notre Dame Hounds arena. It was the very place Mandi had spent so much time, where she had grown up, the place she loved the most. April 6, 2011, would be her last skate with the team. I stood beside her father on the ice as he held her urn. He turned, handed it to me and said: “Take good care of her.” Never have someone’s words hit me so hard.
Even though you may never have known Mandi, anyone can understand what it means to lose a friend. That’s why the bone marrow drive is so important to me. It’s part of Mandi’s legacy: a way for former teammates, friends and family to tell her we haven’t forgotten about her.
But it’s also more than that. It’s a way for us to keep someone else from experiencing this kind of loss — to keep someone else’s parents from having to hold their little girl in a box, knowing her beautiful life was cut short.
We weren’t able to help Mandi, but already, just through bone marrow drives organized at Yale, we’ve had 17 lives saved from 17 donor matches.
Bone marrow drives at Yale have been so successful because of the sheer number of people who have taken the time to stop by Commons and register. You only have to sign up once. It only takes 15 minutes to enter you into the registry. After that, you may or may not receive a call.
Every year, as the database grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to find new registrants. But I am always amazed and inspired by the turnout — a crowd of not only students, but also staff and members of the Yale community. Most of you probably never had the chance to meet Mandi, yet you take the time out of your day because you know what it means to her teammates, her friends, her family and us. And you know what it could mean to someone still looking for a match. So, thank you.
There are a million good causes that demand your time, attention and even sometimes your wallet, too. At this year’s drive, we won’t be asking for your money or any significant time commitment. Simply fill out some paperwork, get your cheek swabbed and hope that you will get a call giving you the opportunity to save someone’s life.
I was blessed to have known Mandi, and I want you to know her, too. Please come to Commons today, see the good work that Mandi continues to do through her teammates and friends, be inspired, and join the registry.
Sam MacLean-Gamble is a 2011 graduate of Davenport College .