Since 2005, University of South Carolina’s Delta Zeta sorority chapter has held an annual donor recruitment drive named Sweet Caroline in honor of their late sister Caroline Terry in order to continue her legacy and help patients in need of a donor find a match. During this event, sorority members are stationed at tables across campus and encourage people to join the registry in hopes that one day they may have a chance to save a life.
During 2020’s Sweet Caroline drive, Delta Zeta sister Meghan joined Gift of Life in honor of Caroline, and also because of her own family history of blood cancer.
“Both of my grandfathers passed away from leukemia and my mother has neutropenia,” said Meghan. “I was born with neutropenia, too, but as I got older, my white blood cells count went up, and I became healthy enough to join the registry. These blood diseases have directly impacted me and my family, and I wanted to sign up to help someone affected by these diseases.”
Two years later, in August 2022, Meghan received a call from Gift of Life informing her that she had been identified as a match for medical research, to help develop new cellular therapies.
“When I first got the call, I was a little confused,” said Meghan. “I didn’t know that it was possible to donate for medical research. However, after the donor services representative explained the process, I knew I was going to do it. Research is how a cure for blood cancer can be found, and is so important to the mission of Gift of Life. Rather than only getting to help one individual, I feel lucky that I may be able to help every individual with these cancers.”
Gift of Life organized travel for Meghan to donate mononuclear cells (MNC) at the Adelson Collection Center in Boca Raton, Fla. Unlike peripheral blood stem cell collections, MNC donors do not need Neupogen injections before donating. The MNC collected for research is a mix of lymphocytes, monocytes and stem cells, and donations typically take four to six hours.
“The collection facility was amazing,” said Meghan. “From the moment I walked through the doors, I felt extremely comfortable and the staff was incredible! During the donation, I watched some Netflix and chatted with my incredible nurses. The staff made my donor pod so cozy with decorations.”
Meghan’s donation proved to be a very influential “full circle moment” for her: being able to donate MNC and help in the fight against the diseases that have affected many people in her family.
“Donating has definitely changed many aspects of my life,” said Meghan. “Getting more involved with Gift of Life made me fall in love with the mission of the company so much so that I am going to join Project Life Movement’s staff [a partner organization of Gift of Life] starting this summer after I graduate college!”
Meghan also participated in the 2023 Sweet Caroline recruitment drives where she helped others join Gift of Life’s registry. She says that several of her friends who swabbed have also received a call to donate.
“I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity to donate and the ways that it has impacted my life for the better,” said Meghan. “The impression that you can make on someone’s life from donating is greater than any intimidation or fear that you may have about the process of collection. It is such a life-changing experience that you will regret not doing it if given the opportunity.”
Meghan, 21, is a full-time student at University of South Carolina where she is a member of the Delta Zeta sorority. She is originally from Mahopac, N.Y. In her free time, Meghan enjoys watching movies, reading, and attending sporting events at her university with her friends. She is excited to beginning her position with Project Life Movement this summer after graduation.
Meghan’s swab kit was sponsored by the Samuel C. Cantor Charitable Trust Donor Circle.
Project Life Movement was founded in 1990 by a group of students at Davidson College to help add donors to the registry and save the lives of patients battling blood cancer. In 2018, Project Life Movement partnered with Gift of Life Marrow Registry to forward the two organizations’ shared goal of diversifying the worldwide registry. Today, Project Life Movement is involved with more than 65 universities and partners serving college campuses across the United States.