In search of marrow donors

LIBERTY – A Liberty man diagnosed with blood cancer is betting that he can find a bone marrow match here in the Mahoning Valley.

Originally diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia three years ago, David Benigas said his diagnosis changed in December of last year.

Because of his chemotherapy treatment for CLL, he was informed he had myelodysplastic syndrome, in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy cells.

In January, Benigas, a former Mahoning County Sheriff’s deputy, said his doctors decided that a bone marrow transplant would be the only cure.

With that in mind, Benigas’ sister Patty Adams teamed up with Be The Match, a world registry of more than 11 million potential bone marrow donors, to organize a registry drive and fundraiser.

“I’m David’s only sibling, and I really wanted to be a match for him as a bone marrow donor,” Adams said.

“I was not a match, but I thought that there had to be something I could do still.”

Saturday’s drive, held at New Life Lutheran Church in Liberty, was Adams’ answer.

People willing to join the registry on Saturday were given cheek swabs that are then transported to a lab and tested for DNA.

Tanya Davis, a Cleveland representative for Be The Match, said that around 485,000 potential donors are added to the registry every year through events like the one held Saturday.

The criteria for a donor is very specific, and despite the high numbers of registered donors, Benigas said he knows the odds of a perfect match for him are small.

“This is a lottery, and I’m definitely gambling,” said Benigas.

“But they’re looking every day for a match for me, and there’s always the chance (the registry) will spit out someone who’s close to a 100 percent match.”

While Adams’ goal Saturday was to register 75 people as donors, restrictions on who can register as a donor limited signups to around 40 people.

Davis said that the ideal candidate for a bone marrow donor is between the ages of 18 and 44.

Adams said that the small window prevented many other people from registering on Saturday afternoon. People could still help Benigas’ battle without registering as donors, as the event also included a bake sale, 50/50 raffle and Chinese auction.

For more information on Be The Match, or to register as a donor, visit