Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23, 2010 - A Champion Gift-Giver

There's lots of talk, this time of year, about gifts and gift-giving, but here's a gift-giving story that will warm your heart. It comes from the sports pages, of all places.

Matt Hoffman is a defensive end for the Rowan University football team, here in New Jersey. Recently he was one of three runners-up for the Gagliardi Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding football player in Division III of the NCAA. It's that Division's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Matt had put himself on the National Bone Marrow Registry's list of potential stem-cell donors some time back. Last November, his number came up. Matt's blood chemistry, it seemed, was a good match for a non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient, a stranger to him, who urgently needed to undergo the transplant procedure.

The only problem was, for Matt to say yes to the request to donate meant he would have to take some powerful medicines, whose side effects would prevent him from playing in the final football game of his Junior-Year season.

The voting for prestigious sports awards like the Gagliardi Trophy is heavily dependent upon statistics. For an outstanding player like Matt Hoffman to miss even a single game is a really big deal. It can mean the difference between being the trophy recipient and being the runner-up (as Matt turned out to be).

Matt didn't hesitate. He told his coach he couldn't play that day, because he had to go into the hospital to donate stem cells. For a stranger.

A few weeks ago - in the moments before the Gagliardi Trophy awards ceremony - Matt had the opportunity to meet the man who received his stem cells. The National Bone Marrow Registry puts a one-year moratorium on sharing the names of recipients, but after that year had elapsed - and with the consent of both parties - they brought the two men together. Matt had the opportunity to meet Warren Sallach, a 59-year-old road maintenance worker from Texas, who continues to be in full remission more than a year after receiving his stem cells.

It was an emotional occasion for both of them. Matt called it "one of the best moments of my life."

I'd be hard-pressed to think of a better gift-giving story than that. Matt Hoffman may be a runner-up for the Gagliardi Trophy, but he comes in first for an even more prestigious trophy, in my book.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story as we prepare to celebrate the greatest gift of all. Charlene/Harvey