As PCHS faces off against Oswego East in the homecoming football game, a Plainfield family will wage a battle against cancer by getting people registered as potential bone marrow donors.
The Wielgos family is partnering with Be the Match to register up to 100 potential bone marrow donors in honor of daughter Sarah. The organization maintains a registry to match donors with people who have diseases like leukemia and lymphoma.
Now 20, Sarah was diagnosed in 2012 with an aggressive form of leukemia. Fortunately, little sister Mary, now 14, was a perfect match.
Related: '100 Days for Sarah Supports Plainfield Teen Battling Leukemia
"Mary literally saved Sarah's life in February when she donated her bone marrow to her sister," mom Suzanne Wielgos said, noting that even siblings have only a 25 percent chance of being a match. But some of the friends Sarah made as she underwent treatment Loyola University Hospital weren't as lucky.
Suzanne said a little girl battling the same type of leukemia as Sarah had to turn to the bone marrow registry to find a match; because of her ethnic background, doctors weren't able to find a match in time to save her life.
"We were heartbroken," Suzanne said.
Now, the Wielgos family is hoping to save other lives by asking spectators at the varsity football game, set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at PCHS, 24120 Fort Beggs Dr., to get registered for Be the Match.
"It's all free of charge — our family is sponsoring it," she said. "Just come to the table and get swabbed." All it takes is a cheek swab, and Be the Match can store registrants' profile as a potential bone marrow donor.
To register, you just need to be between the ages of 18 and 44, and wiling to donate bone marrow should you ever be called upon as a match, Suzanne said. While everyone is encouraged to register, people with certain backgrounds — including African-American, Hispanic and Asian — are underrepresented on the registry, she said.
Paying it Forward
Last year, the Plainfield Central cheerleaders showed their support for Sarah by performing a routine in her honor during a Wildcat basketball game.
"It was so wonderful," Suzanne said. "They called it 'Stay Strong, Sarah.' ... We taped it and she and I cried as we watched it together in the hospital."
Now, 14-year-old Mary is now a freshman cheerleader at PCHS. The family wanted to host an event at the school in honor of community that supported them.
"They were so kind and supportive to our family, it just blew me away," Suzanne said. "We wanted to pay it forward."
'One Tough Cookie'
As for Sarah, her cancer is now officially in remission, her mom said. Throughout her battle, she's kept a blog, appropriately titled "One Tough Cookie," to update supporters about her progress.
Following her bone marrow transplant, "She has the immune system of a newborn, so she can't really be out and about, so that's hard," Suzanne said.
Sarah was diagnosed just as she started her sophomore year as a nursing major at St. Louis University. Her family said she hopes to return in January. Mom Suzanne said Sarah's ordeal has influenced her career choice.
"She definitely wants to become an oncology nurse," Suzanne said.