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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.”


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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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