Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics is raising awareness about the need for more diverse stem cell donors after he lost both his mother and brother to cancer.
In order to accomplish his mission, the basketball player teamed up with Be the Match and Aflac, the world’s largest database for potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. There are 75 types of diseases that can be treated with a blood stem cell transplant, but there are only 29% of African America patients that will find a match. Yet, white patients run a 79% chance of finding a match. Due to this shocking health disparity, Smart feels the need to speak out against this racial injustice.
“The discrepancy in the registry is beyond ridiculous,” the Bolton Celtics player explained to media outlet PEOPLE. “We need people to join the registry and to become donors because transplant is the only way. We’re coming together and allowing what I’ve experienced in my life and what they’ve been doing to merge together and do something special.”
Smart knows better than anyone what it feels like to lose a loved one to cancer because he had to go through the trauma of losing both, his brother and mother. His mission to diversify the registry comes from a place of personal pain and not wanting other families to experience the horror he endured.
Marcus Smart discusses the inspiration behind his cancer mission
Smart watched his brother gradually drop weight and become physically unrecognizable. However, Smart recalls his brother always maintaining a positive outlook. “But through all that, he was still smiling. He was this positive guy,” the 28-tear-old athlete recalled. “It put things in perspective for me in my life as I got older.”
He added that this experience has made him a better person and inspired him to contribute to an important cause. Smart explained, “As the youngest of 4 boys, it puts some fire in your heart to get out there and help with the cause.”
The experiences he’s been through led the basketball star to 19-year-old Justice Brooks, a young man who is living with sickle cell anemia. While sharing his experience with childhood cancer, Brooks emphasized to the Bolton Celtics player that getting cell donations can help save someone’s life.
“I want people to know what people with these diseases go through and how difficult it is,” the teenager said. “And how they could help save somebody’s life.”
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