Health Team

Marrow donor drive draws young, old, UNC legend

Posted July 17, 2015 2:26 p.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2015 9:23 p.m. EDT

— Parents and their children, law enforcement officers, others in the judicial system and a University of North Carolina basketball legend lined up Friday to proffer a DNA swab and join the bone marrow donor registry, all inspired by the fight of Superior Court Judge Carl Fox.

Fox, 61, is fighting a blood cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome, and he needs a marrow donation to help in that battle.

But the "Save the Fox" campaign goes beyond one man.

"The cause is obviously greater than Carl is," said Kristen Commons, who brought her children to the drive at University Mall.

"The boys and I are here because it’s an opportunity to talk about Carl but also the importance to be able to do something like this for anybody," she said.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood agreed.

"It’s not just about Carl. It’s not just about this drive. This drive is helping so many others," he said. "When we find a match for Carl, we’ll feel good. We’ll remember it, and it will put chills on our arms."

Phil Ford, who played point guard at UNC before a nine-year career in the NBA, was on hand to support his friend Fox. The men met as freshmen in the 1970s and have been friends ever since. He’s hoping his high-profile donation will help inspire others.

"It’s something a lot of African-Americans have not done," Ford said. "It’s very simple. It’s not painful. If you have an opportunity to save someone’s life, it’s worth it."

Commons said the question of pain and sacrifice was one her children raised as well. Once she was able to understand that blood marrow grows back with no loss to the donor, she was happy to encourage them to participate.

Fox said he hopes a match will be found to help him, but he is also motivated to improve the odds of finding future donors, of any ethnicity, so others with myelodysplastic syndrome can have a lifesaver of their own.

The Bone Marrow Donor Drive for Superior Court Judge Carl Fox continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at University Place in Chapel Hill. Those who can't make it this weekend can register any time at Rex Blood Services at 2709 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh.

Participants must be at least 18, no older than age 55 and in good health.