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Celebrating Laila, “Champion of the Year”

Laila, transplant recipient and “Champion of the Year”

Laila Anderson is this year’s “Champion of the Year” for raising the most money during the annual Be The Match® Champion Challenge! She raised an impressive $10,610 during the fundraising event—enough to provide more than five patient assistance grants to families facing financial barriers related to blood stem cell transplant. 

Laila’s coronation is well deserved and quite fitting, as she was already a fighter and beloved champion to many. It was only a few years ago that the now strong, hockey-playing teenager found herself fighting for her life and critically in need of a bone marrow transplant. 

Nightmare at 9 years old 

When Laila was just 9 years old, she suddenly became very sick. She spent the next 14 months in and out of the hospital undergoing countless procedures, MRIs, spinal taps—and even a brain biopsy. At 10 years old she was diagnosed with isolated central nervous system hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (CNS-HLH)—a rare and life-threatening immune system disorder. A bone marrow transplant from a matching donor soon became her best chance at surviving and treating the disease. 

A match and a meeting inspire thousands 

Fortunately, a suitable match was found. After multiple rounds of chemotherapy, Laila received a bone marrow transplant facilitated by Be The Match in January 2019. 

She was later able to meet her selfless donor, Kenton, at the Be The Match® Soirée in 2019. Video capture of this beautiful, touching moment soon became a viral sensation, bringing critical awareness to Be The Match and the need for more potential blood stem cell donors. Her story has inspired thousands to join the Be The Match Registry® and an incredible community of supporters to financially support the mission. 

Since her transplant, Laila has become passionate about increasing awareness and support for Be The Match. “Be The Match ultimately saved my life. Everyone should be given that same opportunity for a second chance,” says Laila. “Spreading awareness and raising money helps heal my heart.” 

Giving back to give hope 

When Laila heard about this year’s Champion Challenge, she knew she wanted to join in as a fundraiser. What she didn’t know, though, was just how many people would end up coming through for her to support the cause. 

“I hope my gifts provide someone with hope,” says Laila. “Hope that they can fight through challenge, hope that they can succeed, and hope that they can inspire others.” 

Families are calling us every week in distress because they need financial support to get through transplant. And these uninsured costs continue to be the number one barrier reported by patients who come to us in need of a blood stem cell transplant. 

You can help support these patients by creating your own Team Be The Match fundraiser. All proceeds go directly to providing patient assistance grants, funding groundbreaking research and adding more potential donors to the registry.