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COOS BAY — This week, 13-year-old Karli Kennedy signed up fellow students to the bone marrow registry as a way to help save cancer patients.

For Kennedy, she has seen what it means to be a donor match to someone with leukemia and lymphoma. Three years ago, her grandmother was diagnosed with blood cancer but survived when someone ended up being a bone marrow match.

Assistant Principle Casey McCord uses a buccal swab to register to collect a sample of DNA to be entered into a Be The Match into a database m…

“That was a huge undergoing for my family,” Kennedy said. “It was hard.”

After watching her grandmother’s fight to survive, Kennedy went on to become an ambassador for the largest bone marrow registry in the world, Be The Match. Be The Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program and has been around for 30 years. Kennedy became the Coos Bay ambassador for the organization in August and ran her first event at Marshfield High School on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 16 and 17.

“I wanted to show people there is an importance to joining the registry,” Kennedy said. “There is a reason to sign up because you could cure someone’s cancer. It could save someone’s life.”

Be The Match ambassador Karli Kennedy collects a buccal swab of human DNA during a drive Wednesday at Marshfield High School.

During the event this week at MHS, Kennedy, an eighth-grader at the school, spoke with fellow students about Be The Match and her grandmother’s story.

“There are millions of people out there without matching, which is why I think it’s important to get the word out about Be The Match,” Kennedy said, adding that she would have been happy if even just one person signed up during her two-day event. “Whoever signs up, shows up, I will be happy.”

The Miss Coos County 2020 contestant said that she works hard to bring balance between being a student and ambassador for Be The Match, something she says her grandmother is proud to see.

Be The Match ambassador Karli Kennedy talks to Assistant Principle Casey McCord during a DNA drive at Marshfield High School.

“She has inspired me to do this,” Kennedy said of her grandmother.

For more information about Be The Match, visit To join the registry and get a kit in the mail, text THANKFUL to 61474.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.


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