Some years ago, a Fletcher tradition emerged from a tragedy.  The annual Erica J. Murray Bone Marrow Drive, scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) was the community’s response to Erica’s death in 2008, as a result of leukemia and the lack of a good match for a bone marrow transplant.

With each passing year, an additional degree of separation is inserted between Erica and current students, but the power of potentially saving a life, starting with a simple cheek swab, links each new Fletcher generation to the one before, and the bone marrow drive results in dozens of new donors for the National Marrow Registry.

Even as an annual event, there are special twists this year.  The first is that Mary, a staff member who is also an alum, has taken on the fundraising requirements for the marrow drive, and has done so with gusto!  Pre-drive Zumba, led a current student/Zumba-master!  Pre-drive pub night (with auction) at PJ Ryan’s (nearby Fletcher hangout)!

And before the pub night, a current PhD student who completed the MALD program narrowed the gap between Erica and current students when he transmitted a message to the community from a MALD alum — a message sure to inspire students to participate in the marrow drive, and also sure to leave few dry eyes.  Munish wrote:

You don’t know me, but if we run into each other somewhere, we’ll seem familiar to one another. That’s because, as you’ve no doubt learned, Fletcher is a family and you learn to recognize your own.  (If you come to PJ Ryan’s tonight, then we can meet in person!)

Four years ago, the extended Fletcher family lost a bright light in the form of Erica Murray.  She was like us, and, at the same time, not.  Let me start by saying that I did not know Erica that well — I only met her a few times — but her joie de vivre was apparent.  I’m sure you know her story — if not, here is the short film that was made about her.

As her leukemia worsened, Erica shined brighter.  She demonstrated to the rest of us how to handle adversity: with honesty, humor, and humility.

During the first bone marrow drive at Fletcher, there was record turnout; the local Bone Marrow Registry coordinator said she had never seen those numbers before.  Of course, many Fletcher folks knew Erica then, and were excited to support this direct effort to help a phenomenal classmate.  Sadly, our efforts did not result in a match for Erica, but in her memory, we continue the search on behalf of others.  It only takes a moment to swab your cheek and you could be saving a life — yes, it’s that easy.

You can imagine the sadness that settled in, just about four years ago, when Fletcher got the news that Erica had passed away.  This week, in between classes, finals, papers, and presentations, find friends who you’re going to miss when you leave Fletcher, and give them a hug.  Ask them if they want to do the bone marrow registry thing.  You’ll be channeling the love with which Erica led her life until the very end.

In memory of Fletcher family,


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