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Shaq Plays Big Off The Court For National Marrow Donor Program PSA Campaign

March 8, 2010: Shaquille O’Neal may be sidelined for the rest of the NBA season following surgery on his right thumb, but the Cleveland Cavaliers center is still a big man on and off the court. O'Neal has become the very visible face for The National Marrow Donor Program's "Be The Match,"  to tell the nation about the critical need for more bone marrow donors.

Specifically, "Be The Match" seeks to help patients who "need a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor find a second chance at life."

Beginning this month, a national PSA campaign, " Do Something Big," will feature O'Neal in three TV spots: one alone; one with Coach Dale Brown, O’Neal’s former coach at Louisiana State University, and Coach Trent Johnson, LSU’s current basketball coach; and another in which Johnson and O’Neal make a special appeal for African Americans to volunteer as donors.

His his solo spot, O’Neal states, "I'm big. I've done big things," as text reads "4 NBA championships." "Some even say I'm bigger than life," he continues. "[But] there's nothing bigger than life. Especially when someone you love is fighting for their life. Do you want to do something big? Sign up now to donate marrow to save a life. See how big you can be. You can be the one to save a life." All three spots direct people to "Take the first step" at www.BeTheMatch.org. (See spot here.)

According to NMDP, "For thousands of people battling leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases, a bone marrow transplant offers their best – or only – hope for a cure. Seventy percent of these patients don’t have a matching donor in their families, so they depend on the 'Be The Match Registry,' the world’s largest and most diverse listing of potential marrow donors, to find that life-saving match."

Why was O'Neal selected to be the face of the campaign, which also includes print, Internet and social media outlets? “Shaq is an American icon who’s respected for his talents, on and off the court,” Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., CEO of NMDP, said in a statement. “We’re honored that he is championing our mission and advocating for patients who are searching for a marrow match.”

In addition,O'Neal's presence will spotlight the fact that of the 8 million people who have registered as potential donors with NMPD, just 600,000, only 7%, are are African American. NMPD said the awareness it plans to raise with the O'Neal campaign could improve the chances for everyone to find a proper donaor. "Patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. That means adding more donors to the registry – especially from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds – increases the likelihood that all patients will find the donor they need."

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