Grassroots football campaign aims to find stem cell donors

FOOTBALL chiefs have teamed up with Brierley Hill charity campaigner and the Anthony Nolan charity to try to increase the number of people signing up to the stem cell registry to help save the lives of those who fight against blood disorders.

The Birmingham County Football Association has teamed up with Simon Wilkes, organizer of the annual Olly Wilkes Memorial football tournament, and the Anthony Nolan charity which runs a stem cell registry to find matching donors for people with blood disorders life-threatening cases requiring a transplant. .

The aim of the partnership is to try to increase the number of people on the register in the West Midlands and Warwickshire by using grassroots football as a stimulus for recruitment.

Simon said he was delighted with the initiative, adding: “Words cannot explain how I feel about the upcoming collaboration with BCFA, regarding the recruitment of stem cell donors for Anthony Nolan. I never would have thought that in a million years I would go this far in history.

Representatives from the Birmingham County Football Association were due to be at the Olly Wilkes Memorial Tournament, taking place today (Saturday June 25) at Thorns Collegiate Academy, to support the recruitment of potential stem cell donors in partnership with Anthony Nolan.

The Association also plans to work with the grassroots leagues and through its County Cup competitions to try to increase the number of Midlands-based donors.

Former Withymoor Colts football coach Simon and his family have been involved in grassroots football for 22 years. But following the tragic death of footballer Olly, aged 22 in 2017, he and his wife Lynn and Olly’s brother Ben, 29, have kept Olly’s memory alive through a series charity fundraising events – including the annual Olly Wilkes Memorial Football Tournament.

The first event took place in 2018 and during a stem cell drive, 52 people signed up for the Anthony Nolan registry. Incredibly, two people who signed up that day became partners for people in need of a transplant.

Sam, from Sedgley, donated stem cells and bone marrow in 2021 after selflessly giving up free tickets to see England play at Euro 2020 – a move that made national headlines and earned Sam VIP tickets to see England take on Italy in the Euro 2020 final plus a supporters award from Anthony Nolan (Donor Champion of the Year).

More recently, Casey Mulhall, who also signed up for the 2018 event, was selected as the match and he expects to donate cells soon.

In total, however, three grassroots-linked local lads were selected as matches for someone in need as at a previous charity event hosted by Simon in 2017, before Olly’s untimely death, Matt Beveridge s is on the registry and was called in 2018 to donate stem cells.

Simon has been ‘absolutely blown away’ by the success rate of his stem cell campaigns, held in tribute to Olly, and he hopes Saturday’s football tournament will encourage many more people to sign up for the Anthony Register Nolan.

People can find out more about becoming a donor on the Anthony Nolan charity website.

There are currently 880,000 people nationwide on the register. People can find out more about becoming a donor on the Anthony Nolan charity website.

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