I frequently give blood at Community Blood Services of Illinois  in Urbana, but yesterday, I accomplished two things while I was there.
I donated blood and signed up for the Be the Match , the registry for the National Marrow Donor Program.
I decided to do so after reading a News-Gazette article about Sarah Parker, a local woman who needs a bone marrow transplant . She is having trouble finding a match. I figured joining the registry could result in helping someone in need. Plus, it seemed easy enough.
I thought I'd share my experience, in case anyone else is thinking about it.
First, I read up online at www.bethematch.org  about what donating involves and whether I'd be eligible. I'm between the ages of 18 and 44, and I'm in good health, so that worked well. I understand that if I'm needed as a donor, I'll need to take time off work. I talked it over with my husband and also let other close family members know of my decision.
Then I contacted Carrie Webb, who is the director of donor relations and the marrow program at Community Blood Services. You can sign up there in Urbana, but Carrie asks that you contact her first, to make sure she's available. You can contact her by email (click here ) or by calling 217-367-2202.
You can also sign up at a benefit for Sarah Parker this weekend. It's scheduled for 5-10 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 26) at St. Joseph Middle School, 606 E. Peters Drive, St. Joseph. Here's the Facebook page for Hope for Sarah Parker. 
I made an appointment to meet Carrie yesterday at Community Blood Services to sign up. I filled out some paperwork while she prepared the buccal swab kit (which basically included four large Q-tip-like swabs). The paperwork asked for personal information, but Carrie reminded me that what I provided will never be used for anything other than contacting me if I match someone who needs a donor.
Filling out the form took about 10 minutes, although I came in knowing exactly what the process entailed. The form also asks for contact information for several people close to you, which Carrie explained can help the registry track you down if you end up moving or getting different contact information. There were also questions about my health history.
After I finished, I swabbed four areas of my cheeks (top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left) and stuck them in the kit Carrie provided.
The kit comes with really clear instructions (you can learn more about it here ) and Carrie also coached me through it. If you sign up with Carrie in Urbana, you don't have to worry about anything as far as packaging or shipping your sample. It was a totally painless process.
And that was it. It took less than 15 minutes, and it could save someone's life. I just thought I'd share my experience, in case anyone else is thinking of registering.
Photo and logo are both from the Be the Match website.