Fordham’s Gift of Life Club Helps Students Save Lives


Fordham’s Gift of Life Club allows students to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to cancer patients across the country. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Students in Fordham’s Gift of Life Club are encouraging Fordham students to help save lives by joining the nationwide Gift of Life Marrow Registry. 

Gift of Life at Fordham is headed by two Fordham seniors, Julia Lawlor, FCRH ’21, and Thomas Whittaker, FCRH ’21, who serve as campus ambassadors for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry at the university. 

The Gift of Life Marrow Registry “is a national, public, not-for-profit registry facilitating transplants for patients in the United States and abroad,” according to their official website

Specifically, the organization works to facilitate transplants for patients with blood cancer by matching them with potential donors of bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. “Today, transplantation of healthy stem cells donated by related and unrelated volunteers offers hope to many patients suffering from these sometimes deadly diseases,” the website states. 

Anyone can join the registry by filling out a brief questionnaire and performing a cheek swab, the website explains. 

Gift of Life at Fordham works to try and find potential donors on the Fordham campus. 

The club was revived in the fall of 2019 by Lawlor after years of inactivity. Lawlor became a campus ambassador after she decided to join the Gift of Life Registry herself, she said. After registering, she got an email from the organization about the opportunity to be a campus ambassador, and decided to sign up. “They said no one had done it at Fordham in a couple of years,” Lawlor said.

Whittaker joined the club in the fall 2019 semester as a volunteer after seeing Lawlor, his roommate, carrying in a box of cheek swabs during move-in. 

After explaining that the swabs were for registering students for the registry as a part of her new role as a campus ambassador, Lawlor invited Whittaker to help her run the club, and the two started spreading the word during that semester’s club fair.

“I’ve always wanted to do that, to be a possible donor,” Whittaker said.

One of the primary ways the club typically gets new students to sign up for the registry is through tabling in dorms, Lawlor said. However, due to restrictions brought about by COVID-19, the club has had to find new ways to gain registrants.

“Now we’ve been hosting virtual drives,” Lawlor said. “We create an event and people can sign up at the event through the [Gift of Life] website. They can fill out the information with their shipping address, and Gift of Life can send them their swab kit so they can complete it on their own, which takes two minutes total, and then they’ll give them a prepaid envelope to send it back and join the registry.”

The club is currently hosting their “March Madness” event, during which they hope to get 30 new swabs in 30 days. Anyone who signs up for the registry with Gift of Life at Fordham’s special link and shows proof of registration can enter into a raffle to win a prize, Lawlor said. 

Since its revival in 2019, the club has registered more than 350 Fordham students in the Gift of Life registry, according to Lawlor. Out of those registrants, Lawlor said five were flagged as possible matches, and one registrant actually completed the transplant.

“When you get called as a match they do some more questions, and sometimes you might no longer be a possible match, or they might choose someone else,” Lawlor explained.

Lawlor said the one successful transplant was visible proof of the club’s impact.

“That life was directly from our involvement at Fordham,” Lawlor said. “It’s very easy to see where your work goes.”

For students who are interested in getting involved with Gift of Life at Fordham, Whittaker said the club will be hosting training events for new members. The events will train students to become Gift of Life volunteers by teaching them what to say and how to answer questions while running swabbing events, Whittaker explained. 

Lawlor and Whittaker said they encourage students of all majors to join the club.

“It’s the easiest way to save a life here at Fordham,” Whittaker said. 

Interested students can find more information by following Gift of Life at Fordham on Instagram at @giftoflifefordham and signing up for their mailing list via the link in their bio.