Monica alongside her children at the Dink For Cause event benefiting Be The Match this summer
Every supporter has their origin story—the moment they first heard of our mission and made a commitment to help. For Monica Hicks, one of our Los Angeles Board of Ambassador members for Be The Match®, her story starts six years ago. That’s when her husband Leo was suddenly diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
When Leo was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2017, doctors told him his only chance of surviving was finding a blood stem cell donor for a transplant. Like the majority of patients, they were unable to find a suitable match within their immediate family and so they turned to Be The Match. To their incredible luck, a perfect match was found within weeks. A young man in his 20s selflessly stepped up to donate. However, they quickly learned that many aren’t so lucky, as Monica recalls:
“The oncologist said to Leo, ‘Because you’re white, you had a 70% chance of finding a match. If it were your wife, who is Mexican, her chance would go down to 40%—and if it were your children [who are multiracial], it would go down even more.’”
After hearing these shocking statistics, Leo looked at Monica and said, “When I beat this, this is what we’re going to do: We’re going to focus on raising awareness and advocating for Be The Match so others know the importance of having people from different backgrounds and ethnicities on the registry.”
A year later, Leo ultimately lost his battle with leukemia. However, Monica and their three kids are so thankful to Leo’s donor for giving them the gift of more time as a family. And so after he passed, Monica knew she wanted to do something to support Be The Match.
For the love of pickleball—and paying it forward
After the pandemic (2021), Monica stumbled upon one of today’s fastest-growing sports: pickleball. She says she absolutely loves it—and it’s also where she met her pickleball and future nonprofit co-founder, Mitra Sushinsky.
After Monica shared her story and desire to support our mission, the two women decided to create a pickleball tournament with all funds going to Be The Match. At this time, they also started their nonprofit organization, Dink For Cause. They’ve since gone on to host more pickleball tournaments benefiting Be The Match and other nonprofits, as well as registry drives to add more potential blood stem cell donors to the Be The Match Registry®.
Because both Leo and his donor were selfless men who helped others, Monica says they’re all paying it forward now, to help more patients receive the gift of more time—or even a cure.
Ambassador to the mission
When Monica shared her story with Be The Match, she was asked to join our Los Angeles Board of Ambassadors. “It is an honor and I’m so proud to be on it, with such incredible people and inspiring stories,” says Monica.
Whether she’s on the pickleball court or in a board meeting, Monica hopes her support helps bring more awareness to Be The Match and how important it is for people of different ethnic backgrounds to be represented on the registry.
“If even just one person is saved through [my] efforts, or one family is saved from losing their loved one, it would be the greatest gift,” says Monica.
We need your ideas, leadership and compassion! If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a board of ambassador member, contact Kirsten Larson at email@example.com.