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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former men's lacrosse player Kyle VanThof underwent a bone marrow donation on Feb. 9.
In November of 2012, the Penn State men's lacrosse team hosted a swab drive to attempt to find a bone marrow match for then-player Drew Roper's mother, Kim. Roper's mother had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant to aid in her fight against the disease. As part of this swab event, many Penn State student-athletes participated and incredibly, one became a match.
In early 2014, as a result of his participation in the Match4Kim swab drive, men's hockey player David Glen found out he was a match for a woman needing a bone marrow transplant. Although he had to sit out a few games in the middle of the season, Glen knew the choice was clear and didn't hesitate to help.
More recently, VanThof found out he was a match for someone needing the life-saving transplant. VanThof had visited his former teammate Drew Roper, just three days prior to finding out he himself was a match. Roper's mother, who was the inspiration for the swab drive in 2012, unfortunately still has not found a match.
VanThof quickly participated in further testing before undergoing the operation just over a week ago. Finding out he was a match was both surprising and life changing for VanThof.
"I was extremely excited, it was an opportunity to give someone more time with their family, and their family more time with them," said VanThof. "It was a pretty long process, and I was hoping that everything would work out. I believe it has, and there is so much more left to finish the journey with her that I hope we get a chance to be a part of each others lives."
Playing midfield, VanThof spent his years with Penn State men's lacrosse making an impact both on and off the field. His redshirt junior season, VanThof started all 17 games and scored six goals with eight assists. VanThof described his time on the team.
"Unforgettable, I would never exchange my experience for the world," said VanThof. "I still keep in touch with so many of my teammates because we have built a family atmosphere. These were the only guys I spent time with for five years."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni remembers VanThof as a player who treated his teammates like family and thought of other people's needs before his own.
"It's one thing to be a match but it's another thing to actually go through with it," said Tambroni. "Kyle was not only a match but chose to go through with it. I think it speaks volumes about Kyle's selflessness and willingness to kind of look out away from just his own being or his own day-to-day tasks to help somebody else in need."
Due to privacy restrictions VanThof has not been in communication with the woman who would receive the life-saving transplant.
"There are rules with communicating with the person, so at this moment in time I have not heard from her," said VanThof. "I will get updates on how she is doing and so forth, but until the first year hits and we choose whether or not to disclose our personal information we can only communicate through letters that are read by Be The Match."
Despite the lack of direct communication, VanThof knows his contribution is being received with great appreciation. Also appreciative of his donation are his family, friends and former teammates who have supported him through the process.
"Everyone that I have spoken to has been extremely supportive," said VanThof. "It's actually an honor because not everyone gets a chance like this to do something for someone in need."
The whole process he has been through these past few weeks has encouraged VanThof and has inspired him to share his story. VanThof urges that becoming a donor and getting swabbed is very important because it not only can save someone's life, but also change your own.
"Everyone should join because it's such a great cause and awareness needs to be raised on the subject," said VanThof. "To be a match and give someone another year, let alone maybe even only a day with their loved ones, is a tremendous opportunity."