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A Perfect Match

It was a memorable season for Susquehanna’s Vilardi, who became a bone marrow donor

Ron Vilardi knew donating bone marrow to a stranger would cause him to miss one game this season. As he was recovering, doctors diagnosed a viral infection, which kept him out an extra game. SUSQUEHANNA UNIVERSITY PHOTO
Ron Vilardi’s final season of college football will be memorable – a fact that has nothing to do with the sport he plays.

Vilardi, an offensive lineman and long snapper for Susquehanna University, found out just before the 2014 season started that he was a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant.

“My mentality was, if it was someone in my family or one of my friends, I would hope someone would do it for them,” said Vilardi, who is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in business administration/finance. “That’s how my coaches felt about it as well. Everyone was open for me to do this.”

Vilardi registered to be a bone marrow donor in November 2013, when his mother’s cousin was in need of a transplant. He wasn’t a match then, but he remained on the donor list.

After having a physical and another blood test, Vilardi was ready to start the bone marrow donation process. He had to undergo five days of injections that built up his white blood-cell count. The process also enlarges the spleen, requiring Vilardi to cease all physical activities and miss the first game of the season.

Bone marrow donations are anonymous, and Vilardi knows only that the recipient is a woman in her 40s. If no complications ensue over the next year, Vilardi and the recipient can choose to meet.

“I took the philosophy of looking at things in the big picture,” said Vilardi, who missed one additional game while his white blood-cell count was returning to normal. “You are talking about someone’s life over a football game. What matters most is helping that person, and it makes everything more memorable for me.”

 

More acts of kindness:

Billikens men’s basketball teammates talk life values, education with juvenile detainees

Even watching from afar, the Saint Louis University men’s basketball team always impressed Don Roth, the citizen deputy juvenile officer for St. Louis County. His respect for the program grew in June 2014 after the Billikens accepted his invitation to speak to youths at the St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center. The detainees’ average age at the center is 15 years old, and Roth wanted them to talk with student-athletes who could inspire them in life. “The kids were so receptive to the players on the team,” said Roth, who has worked as a volunteer at the detention center for 20 years. “It was great to see a collegiate Division I team come in and devote time to do this. They talked one-on-one with many of the kids about life values and continuing education. The chemistry between the students and the residents was great to see.”

 

Colleluori’s HEADstrong Foundation thrives through family he left behind

In April 2005, Nick Colleluori was diagnosed with large B-Cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he immediately drew up the plans to start the HEADstrong Foundation, online at headstrong.org, which raises awareness for blood cancer and helps others afflicted with the disease. Colleluori was told by doctors that he had only three months to live, but the Hofstra University lacrosse player battled the disease for 14 months before passing away Nov. 28, 2006. Colleluori’s family members took the reins of the organization, raised more than $5 million and helped more than 950 families. This aid includes delivering more than 5,000 comfort kits to the families and, in Philadelphia, providing complimentary shelter for families at Nick’s House while their loved ones are being treated. “This has been a labor of love and one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” said Nick’s brother, Pat Colleluori Jr., who is HEADstrong’s chief marketing officer and director of development. “My younger brother was terminally diagnosed at the age of 19, and he understood that there was a lack of support and resources for young adults who encounter these diseases. He chronicled the hardships and turned it into services.”

 

 

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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