Alex Belk, 10, attends Herbert Hoover Elementary School when he is able. He has been battling leukemia since he was 6.

His parents, Ken and Janel Belk, have made many trips to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Alex keeps fighting, and now there is a chance that someone in this community can help through a bone marrow transplant.

The Belk family has gone down the bone marrow road previously, when their daughter, Courtney, 17, a senior at Bettendorf High School, was a match for her little brother. Sadly, the marrow didn’t take because it was “too perfect a match,” his aunt, Tonya Belk, said. The family’s second daughter, Taylor, 15, a freshman at BHS, is not a match.

Unrelated donors are the best-case scenario for the family, Tonya said. That’s where you can come in. Saturday, the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, 5500 Lakeview Parkway, Davenport, is holding a bone marrow drive for the national registry in honor of Alex.

The initial process is quick and easy. You’ll fill out a sheet with your medical information and take a few cheek swabbings. If you are a match for for Alex – or someone anywhere in the country – you can opt to be a bone marrow donor. The nonprofit Be the Match covers the medical costs of the person donating.

Those ages 18-44 can sign up for free at the drive. Those who want to help but are ages 45-61 must sign up online at bethematch.org. There is a $100 fee to join the registry that is tax deductible for those ages 45-61 only.

For more information, you can call the 800-MARROW-2 or visit bethematch.org.

A bone marrow transplant can allow child to receive high doses of chemotherapy or radiation, like Alex has undergone. These high doses can damage or destroy a child’s bone marrow while fighting the leukemia. A bone marrow transplant would introduce new marrow into Alex’s system that could produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets so his body can fight infections and repair itself.

While Alex has been battling leukemia, he’s had some high moments. When he was in Iowa City, former Bettendorf Bulldog and Iowa Hawkeye and current Indianapolis Colt Pat Angerer visited. You better believe that Alex is a big Indy fan now. Later, former Hawkeyes Ricky Stanzi, now of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Adrian Clayborn , now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped by.

Alex was thrilled to meet these big, tough football players. But they’ve got nothing on Alex – he’s even tougher. Let’s help him.

Till next time — take care.

(1) comment

Bunks20

To all who read this article: please consider signing up with Be The Match!! I signed up as a college suphomore (2004) and got the call that I matched with an unrelated patient last year. I donated in October. The Be the Match organization is extraordinary! They took care of everything from scheduling the tests, logistics of the donation process, and have followed up with me regularly since. Even though I do not know the person I donated to, I know he is recovering well and is in remission - I would do it again in an instant. Please consider signing up for this drive. Even if you don't match with Alex, you may someday save someone else's life. Good luck, Alex!

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