Football, volleyball and women’s soccer team up to save lives through Be The Match

Fourth-year Brady Roark promotes a “Be The Match” event organized by the football, volleyball and women’s soccer teams on Wednesday, April 19. Photo Courtesy of: Alexa Potamianos

The University of Rhode Island football, women’s volleyball and women’s soccer teams are coming together to raise awareness and save lives.

The football team has been actively working with Be the Match for the past 14 years, but there has been a recent effort to get other athletic teams involved.

Be the Match is the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, but has since been expanded to blood donations as well.

What started as a requirement from his football team became so much more for fourth-year Brady Roark, who had the opportunity to become a donor six short months after his initial swab.

“I signed up because we were doing the drive as a team, but then being able to give someone a second chance at life, there was no doubt in my mind,” said Roark.

After signing up and swabbing spit, people are placed on a registry list where they will stay anywhere between months and years, essentially until they find a match, according to Roark.

“I donated for about four and a half hours,” said Roark. “With technology nowadays it is super painless, just a little pinch.”

Participants will either be matched for a blood donation which will require between a three and eight-hour donation period with an estimated week-long recovery or a short 45-minute procedure to donate bone marrow, which is more rare, according to Roark.

“I actually got involved with Be the Match a few years ago when we took a team initiative to all join the registry,” said Gabrielle Shilling, a fifth-year on the women’s volleyball team.

Shilling mentioned that there have been multiple matches, not just within the URI community, but in Rhody Athletics specifically. As part of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, she wanted this initiative to bring the URI athletic community together.

Roark encourages everyone to get their name on the registry if possible for them.

“I didn’t think I’d be the match for someone, but the person I matched with could have been looking for two or three years and kinda given up on life, as sad as that is,” said Roark.

Roark encourages URI students to put themselves in other people’s shoes when making the choice to sign up.

“Say it was your mother, father, sister, daughter or someone you knew,” said Roark.

“You would want everyone to sign up.”

Shilling appreciated being able to play a sport and stay involved in a meaningful drive that creates a lasting impact.

“We have such a diverse array of people in athletics, so it really increases the chance of someone finding a match,” said Shilling. “I think it’s actually a really uplifting thing.” 

Football, along with other athletic teams, plans to continue the effort to hold drives and increase participation for Be the Match within athletics and the URI community as a whole.