Baldwin discusses Gift of Life, recent donor match

While all students at the College must choose to major in a certain field, many find that they can further develop their enthusiasm for their area of study outside of the classroom. Gracie Baldwin ’16 discovered her specific passion last spring while working with the Gift of Life Foundation. “Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation (not-for-profit) is one of two National Registries whose mission it is to increase the size and diversity of the national bone marrow registry through running bone marrow drives, spreading awareness, and raising money,” Baldwin wrote in an email correspondence.

“Trevor Shorb ’14 ran a [Gift of Life] drive at Colby; I was also interested in joining the bone marrow registry because I was… taking [an] immunology [course],” Baldwin added.

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Baldwin is focused on educating the Colby community about Gift of Life and the importance of becoming a part of the registry. Bone marrow is extremely important for patients with Leukemia or Lymphoma, types of  blood cancer that can lead to death. “Approximately every 4 minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with a type of blood cancer, and 70% of these patients are unable to find a bone marrow match within their family, therefore relying on the national registry to find an unrelated donor,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin often tables in Pulver Pavilion to raise awareness and enlist more students or faculty for the bone marrow registry. To register, “all it takes to sign up for the registry is to swab one’s DNA on a cue tip [sic] (no blood or needles) and they could be the life saving match for a patient in need,” wrote Baldwin.

Baldwin’s devotion to Gift of Life is recent, as she began working with the organization  last semester. She wrote, “Last year, I interned with Gift of Life during the spring semester. I ran multiple drives… in various places… I was able to register over 530 students! I could never have accomplished this without dedicated volunteers as well as the overwhelming enthusiasm and support of my friends and classmates.” Baldwin hopes to raise $2,000 by the end of this school year as a way to offset to the high cost of the swabbing kits as well as to provide funding for Gift of Life.

Although it is rare to find a match, Baldwin experienced a miracle last spring: “As a result of swabbing students last semester, a match was found for a six year old boy with Leukemia. That really is the end goal of all of my efforts with Gift of Life: that matches will be made and lives will be saved.”

Baldwin is on the pre-med track at the College and has found Gift of Life to be helpful in her academic endeavors: “I am… hoping to go to medical school two years after I graduate. I just feel that the cause is so important, because it truly saves lives,” she wrote. She also hopes to continue her work with Gift of Life after she leaves the Hill in May 2016. “I have a two- year gap year before medical school, so as I think about what I would like to do during that time, continuing to work for Gift of Life… would be a truly rewarding experience, both professionally and personally.”

In addition to contributing to her experience as a pre-med student and a biology major, through her work Baldwin has learned some life lessons that she hopes to carry into the future. “I just have been pleasantly surprised at the impact my efforts have made. Working for Gift of Life… occurred in a very serendipitous way, especially since I wasn’t exactly sure what the internship would entail…. It is just very exciting to me that I have become increasingly passionate about the cause and learned a lot about myself along the way.”

To get involved with Gift of Life or donate to the cause, visit https://www.tilt.com/tilts/gift-of-life-at-colby-college-grace-baldwin.