Fife pupils hope to save lives by taking part in stem cell recruitment event

Balwearie High pupils at the stem cell recruitment drive with Anthony Nolan representative Danny Angelosanto (centre) and firefighters. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.
Balwearie High pupils at the stem cell recruitment drive with Anthony Nolan representative Danny Angelosanto (centre) and firefighters. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

Senior pupils from Balwearie High are hoping to save lives after taking part in an Anthony Nolan Trust stem cell recruitment drive recently.

The event was held at the school last Friday and saw 125 potential donors sign up by giving cheek swabs.

Rector at Balwearie High Neil McNeil.

Rector at Balwearie High Neil McNeil.

S6 pupil Emily Greig explained how the recruitment drive came about: “The school was approached by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to hold the event and we immediately thought it was a brilliant way to help people,” she said.

“In addition it was a great way to involve pupils in the wider community and allow some sixth year pupils a voluntary opportunity to become a ‘SFRS champion’.

“The ‘champions’ were mostly Advanced Higher Biology pupils who are seeking a career in science and were interested in the donation process, however it wasn’t directly linked to the curriculum.

“Through organising the event there was an opportunity to learn or develop skills for work and further education.

“We thank the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for giving us the opportunity to run the event in our own way.”

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She said SFRS arranged to come into the school and facilitate the swabbing but stressed the event was pupil led with the SFRS ‘champions’ organising things on the day.

Emily said the fire service delivered an assembly about the donation process along with a former pupil from Kirkcaldy High who was a donor to tell pupils more if they are a match.

She added that Balwearie High pupil Amy Dall who lost her dad to blood cancer was also involved in the stem cell drive.

While Amy’s mum Jen was involved in recruiting pupils to take part.

Emily said: “A fifth year pupil, Amy Dall lost her father, Gary to blood cancer. Amy’s mum, Jen Dall, was involved in recruiting pupils at assembly to sign up and on the day by working with the fire fighters doing swabs.

“I had the opportunity to speak to her on Friday about why she felt it was so important for Anthony Nolan and the SFRS to recruit in schools.

“She said stem cell donation doesn’t get spoken about enough and she herself had never heard of it before her husband’s diagnosis. Jen wanted to emphasise to the pupils and readers that signing up and donating affects people’s lives.”

Jen is now working on spreading the message to young people 16+ to put themselves on the register for the chance to save someone.

When reflecting on her own experience, Jen said: “You never think it’s going to be you and your family that’s affected. We didn’t have a happy ending as Gary became too ill to receive his transplant but we are working towards helping other people receive theirs”.

Amy joined the register on Friday with many of her peers also joining her.

Rector Neil McNeil said: “I am delighted to report that the final number of potential life saving donors from the event was 125, which is the record for Fife schools.

“I am proud of our seniors who participated in this worthy cause as they are a credit to the school and their families.”

Amy Bartlett, regional register development manager for Anthony Nolan in Scotland, said: “SFRS have been working in partnership with Anthony Nolan for the last ten years to recruit young people to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register.

“Most SFRS partnership activity now takes place in schools across Scotland.

“It’s a great way of reaching our target audience as Anthony Nolan’s research 
indicates that younger donors provide better survival rates for patients.

“Friday was a fantastic day and 125 potential donors signed up from Balwearie High in Kirkcaldy and any one of these pupils could give a second chance of life to someone with blood cancer.”