For the past 10 years, Rabbi Danielle LeShaw has served as Rabbi and Executive Director of Hillel at Ohio University (OU). Her leadership has created a wonderful program where the OU Jewish student population can get involved and serve the community while learning about their Jewish identity and gaining leadership skills. While they have various ways to get involved around campus, their program, “Got Swabbed?,” encapsulates everything Hillel stands for: serving others and completing the mitzvot of saving a life.
This unique program was initiated in 2009 when a student wanted to help a childhood friend who was in need of a bone marrow transplant. She wanted to help her friend find her perfect match; so, she partnered with various campus organizations to host a bone marrow recruitment drive while using Hillel as the focal point. After the student graduated, Rabbi Danielle wanted to honor her legacy by continuing with the mission of recruiting volunteer bone marrow donors in the college community.
Rabbi Danielle and Hillel have tried various methods and approaches to recruit new donors, and they have found a formula that works: along with working with various organizations around campus, like Student Senate, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Campus Life, Jewish Women of Ohio, and the health center, among others, she has found that having paid swabbing interns has been the most effective. These students are hired to host mini-swabbing drives around campus for a couple hours, and they’ve been known to recruit between 60-100 people at any given time.
Hillel at OU partnered with Gift of Life in 2010, and since the program’s inception, they have swabbed over 4,000 students. Over 150 have been asked to go through confirmatory typing, while 10 have gone on to donate! Typically, it takes testing 1,000 people before one match is found. They lead the nation in bone marrow drives among colleges and universities and are a definite inspiration.
They have created a community of swabbing and have had an enormous impact on their community. The staff, faculty, and students at OU are well aware of the drives and what it means to be a bone marrow donor. Hillel has worked tirelessly to create awareness and a passion among their community for saving the lives of patients in need. Rabbi Danielle says, “When students hear that their peers have made a match and have saved a life, the sense of pride [they feel] is so wonderful and incredibly energizing. It took a couple of years to make the matches, and that’s why it’s so important that swabbing drives are held multiple times a year and for Hillel to build a culture of swabbing.”
It’s hard to number the amount of drives Hillel has run because of the amount of small drives they do each semester. However, they do plan and host big events, as well. Next week, they, along with two other campus organizations, are hosting an all day swabbing event. They will set up in the Student Center and the Convocation Center during the men’s basketball game. They have been promoting and advertising the event tirelessly and hope to swab a large number of potential donors.
The partnership between Gift of Life and Hillel at OU has been a blessing to both organizations, and we hope to continue this terrific partnership and raise the profile for the “Got Swabbed?” program. Because of their unique and powerful method of recruiting donors, Rabbi Danielle hopes to encourage and inspire other Hillel programs to follow in their footsteps and create a working swabbing program at their own universities.
If you are interested in hosting your own bone marrow drive at your university or in your community, please email our Recruitment Team.