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Could You Be the Match for Coach Shahonna?

By Suzanna McCloskey on 10/20/2015 | Announcements

Mother, encourager, optimistic, determined. Those are just a few ways to describe Coach Shahonna, a two-season Girls on the Run coach for Girls on the Run York in Pennsylvania. Shahonna is also in search of a bone marrow donor and critically needs your help.

Born with a condition called aplastic anemia, Shahonna’s body is not producing enough new blood cells. Her only chance at survival is to receive a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor. Throughout the challenging process, she has remained resilient and committed to coaching for her Girls on the Run council.

Shahonna began running almost two years ago at the encouragement of a friend and then heard about Girls on the Run shortly after. She said she knew volunteering to coach a Girls on the Run team was just simply something she had to do.

“This is my second season with Girls on the Run, and I'm not sure who benefits more—myself, or the girls,” she said. “If I could be encouraged to start running at 38-years-old with a little encouragement, there's no telling what these girls could do, and I wanted a front row seat to find out.”

Over the course of the season, Shahonna inspired her team as they discovered things about themselves and the world around them by learning about concepts like positive self-talk, confidence and quality friendships.

 “I have watched 15 girls go from ‘I just don't think I can do that’ people, to ‘Outta my way, world!’ people, and I have loved it,” she said.

As a coach, Shahonna enjoys passing on the gift of encouragement to others, but now she’s looking for a gift of her own—a matching donor. She’s even featured in a viral music video called “Good Blood”, a parody of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, to raise awareness of the need for bone marrow donors.

Shahonna’s been in fairly good health, but her white blood cell count is starting to drop. Since white blood cells fight infection, she will be confined to isolation if they reach a level so low that it compromises her immune system. It is critical she finds a match soon.

How can you help Coach Shahonna and others like her?

Take the first step to becoming someone’s cure by joining the Be the Match bone marrow registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. You can also help Shahonna by hosting a donor registry drive in your community.

Joining the registry is as simple as giving a swab of your cheek cells and is free for donors between ages 18 and 44. Research shows younger donors are best for patients and provide the greatest chance for transplant success. Because of this, doctors request donors in the 18 to 44 age group over 90 percent of the time. If you are between 44 and 60 and would like to join the registry, you are welcome to do so and will be asked to make a $100 donation to cover the cost of adding you to the registry.

Unfortunately, no one currently on the registry comes close to being a match for Shahonna. About 30 percent of patients have siblings who are a match, but since Shahonna was put up for adoption at birth, she does not have that option. With her mix of Italian, African and Irish heritage, it’s also harder for Shahonna to find a match. Be the Match especially encourages people with diverse heritages to join the registry for this reason.

Despite the challenges she’s faced, Shahonna remains positive and determined to find a match.

“(I am) amazing and unstoppable with a relentless spirit. I am a Girl on the Run.”

We wholeheartedly agree and are sending Shahonna a gigantic Firecracker energy award for her resilient firecracker personality!

Suzanna McCloskey

Author

Suzanna is the Marketing Services Coordinator at Girls on the Run International, where she serves as the project manager for all marketing collateral, manages the weekly e-newsletter for Girls on the Run councils and works closely with the Partnerships and Programming Departments. She comes to Girls on the Run with a background in nonprofit communications and is thankful for the opportunity to help girls lead joyful, healthy and confident lives.

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