20210716-LOC-Troy FD

TROY — The Troy Fire Department will host a bone marrow drive next month, aimed at finding matches for two Massachusetts children.

Brenda Huntoon, wife of Fire Chief Mark Huntoon, said she and several members of the department have been registered to donate bone marrow since 2005.

Recently, she found out she was a match, but was unable to donate because of an underlying health condition.

Still wanting to help, she decided to host the drive with the fire department for two kids with rare immune deficiencies on the bone marrow registry — Bryce and Gigi of Auburn and Peabody, respectively.

“It only takes one person to be the match,” Huntoon said, “and to help somebody.”

Bone marrow transplants are often the best treatment options — or, in some cases, the cure — for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other diseases, according to the website for Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry that is overseeing Troy’s event.

Participation in the drive will be open to people between the ages of 18 and 44, Huntoon said. Research shows younger donors have the greatest chance at a successful transplant, according to the website.

The Troy drive will be held Aug. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Samuel E. Paul Community Center on South Street, and no registration is required.

Members of the fire department, as well as the Troy ambulance, will be assisting.

“It’s just wonderful that they have taken the opportunity to support these local New England children who need a community to rally around them right now,” said Ann Evans, community engagement supervisor for Be The Match.

Cheek swabs will be collected at the drive. If someone is a match, they will be contacted by the Be The Match campaign for next steps, according to the website. Getting a cheek swab does not commit someone to donating.

The process should take only about five minutes, Huntoon said.

To determine a match, Be The Match looks for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue — proteins found on most cells in the body, the website says. The closer the match between two people’s HLA markers, the better for the patient.

People who are unable to make the drive but still wish to join the registry can text TroyFD to 61474 to have a collection kit sent to their home.

Ideally, Huntoon said she hopes to see between 150 and 200 people to find matches not only for Bryce and Gigi, but for others on the bone marrow registry.

“One person is good because they could be the match,” she said, “but I want as many as we could get.”

This article has been changed to correct the text code for people wishing to have a collection kit sent to their home.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.