Bone marrow donors sought at rock concerts

By Manuel Bojorquez

(CBS News) A popular musician who survived cancer is now inspiring fans to step up and help other cancer patients. His foundation is part of some of the biggest music events of the summer.


At a booth set up Chicago’s annual Lollapalooza festival, fans were invited to “get on the list” and become bone marrow donors.


Shannon Henn, executive director of the Love Hope Strength Foundation said, “It only took finding one match at one concert for word to get out that there was an organization literally saving lives at concerts.


“Nobody is here today to be a bone marrow donor. They are all here to listen to great music. So we have to get them out of their comfort zone a little bit,” she said. “So we come in knowing one person is all it takes. And if we walk out of here with over a hundred we are going to be ecstatic.”


Founded by cancer survivors Mike Peters, frontman of the 1980s rock band The Alarm, and his friend James Chippendale, the Love Hope Strength Foundation began their mission with adventurous trips to remote concert venues, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu.


Peters said, “Wherever we do a Love Hope Strength event, we try to benefit the local community.”


They’ve introduced the first mammography machines to Nepal and they built Tanzania’s first children’s cancer center.


Since 2007, Love Hope Strength has crisscrossed the globe, raising money and awareness to fight cancer. They have found a permanent home in Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater, where this summer they will be on hand for nearly 100 events.


The amphitheater is a favorite place of Jennifer Ronhovde, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year while planning her wedding.


“My whole world was turned upside down in an instant,” Ronhovde said. “It was just a huge, scary thing, thinking, ‘OK, if I don’t have a match, what are we going to do, I mean, I have no other options. I have to get a transplant. This is my only possibility of being able to live past the age of 25.”


Someone on the donor registry, which Love Hope Strength has helped grow by 25,000, was a perfect match.

Ronhovde said the life-saving transplant was “an incredible miracle.”


Each year, more than 18,000 people in the United States require a bone marrow transplant – just 30 percent of them will find a match in their family. The least likely to find a match are from the Hispanic and African-American communities. That’s why Enrique Iglesias now includes a Love Hope Strength Get on the List booth at every concert.


Caleb Law joined the bone marrow registry at Red Rocks Ampitheater two years ago. He’s not Ronhovde’s donor, but Law was a match for someone.


“What really hit home for me when I saw Jen (Ronhovde) or other people, too, is that, because I just swabbed a cheek, that tomorrow that they will get a second chance at life,” Law said.


Law’s procedure, which is the least common, required a direct extraction from his hip, and a few hours in the hospital. “There’s some pain involved with it,” he said. “It’s very minimal. There’s a large misconception around donating bone marrow that even I had before I went into this process. But I think it’s really cool that anyone can do this and save a life.”


Just ask Ronhovde. She’s still undergoing chemotherapy after several relapses, but got to marry the love of her life. She’s planning for the future she wasn’t sure she’d have. “I want to travel with my husband. I want to have kids. I want just kind of all the normal stuff.”


While she makes those plans, Peters and his foundation – now joined by dozens of other bands and artists around the world – keep the music playing, and that number of registered donors is growing.


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