UAlbany Gift of Life Looks to Build on Record Swab Drive Week

UAlbany Gift of Life Vice President Nick Tassielli and President Benjamin Marzouk stand next to a table with swab kits inside the Broadview Center.
UAlbany Gift of Life Vice President Nick Tassielli and President Benjamin Marzouk tabling at Thursday’s basketball game against the NJIT Highlanders. (Photo by Liliana Cifuentes)

By Liliana Cifuentes

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 20, 2024) — While the men’s basketball team won big on the court Thursday night, student ambassadors of the University at Albany’s Gift of Life chapter were celebrating a victory of their own — a full-court press against blood cancer at their “Will You Marrow Me?” swab event inside the Broadview Center.

The Gift of Life believes that every person suffering from blood cancer deserves a second chance at life. Established on UAlbany’s campus in 2020, student ambassadors have been collecting swabs for the past three years to match blood cell samples with potential marrow recipients in need.

According to the Gift of Life’s Campus Ambassador Program’s website on donor statistics, UAlbany’s chapter has matched 44 donors from the 2,553 swabs it has collected, with the most recent occurring on Feb. 9 after a donor matched with a 57-year-old man battling Leukemia. Three donors have provided bone marrow transplants.

Last fall, the UAlbany chapter reached record numbers. A total of 875 swabs were collected from the campus community, with 723 of those hailing from their week-long event in November. It was the Gift of Life’s second-largest collegiate swab drive nationally. 

Gift of Life swab kits on a purple table inside the Broadview Center at UAlbany.
The Gift of Life swab kit takes five minutes to complete and is mailed to the organization’s marrow registry team in Boca Raton, Fla. (Photo by Liliana Cifuentes)

Benjamin Marzouk, president of UAlbany’s Gift of Life chapter, was recognized as one of the country’s top campus ambassadors after organizing nine events last year and being featured on several local news outlets

“For UAlbany to rank among the top campus chapters in the nation, I take major pride in that,” said Marzouk, a senior at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC).

Despite the impressive number, the UAlbany chapter hopes to continue increasing registration rates. This semester, Gift of Life is aiming for just shy of 1,000 swabs.

“We’ve seen an increase in participation in every drive we’ve hosted,” said Marzouk. “Our focus is getting as many people to join the registry as possible. Joining is easy. It’s just three swabs inside your cheek and takes five minutes to potentially save a life.”

Kayla Sandolo, a junior at CEHC, is set to assume Marzouk’s role after he graduates. Her primary goal is to continue his legacy.

“I’m going to go to different sports teams and student clubs to try to get them to support our swab drive events,” said Sandolo. “The more people we can get involved, the greater interest there will be.”

Those interested in joining the donor registry are encouraged to participate in UAlbany Gift of Life’s “Swab a Cheek, Save a Life!” event. It will take place Monday, Feb. 26 through Friday, Mar. 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations:

●    Monday, Feb. 26: Lecture Center
●    Tuesday, Feb. 27: Campus Center (UAlbanyGo Table by Starbucks)
●    Wednesday, Feb. 28: Campus Center; Next to the Damien Statue
●    Thursday, Feb. 29: Lecture Center
●    Friday, March 1: State and Indigenous Quads (inside of Eastman Tower and Mohawk Tower, respectively)

The student chapter’s strong partnership with UAlbany Athletics will also allow for continued swab events at home games, with plans to collaborate with both the women’s lacrosse and baseball teams later this spring.