By Robert W. Dalton
As members of the Wofford men’s soccer team, Sammy Friedrich ’21 and Grant Wollam ’21 were involved in some big matches.
None, however, were as important as the matches they made off the pitch. Through the Project Life Movement, Friedrich and Wollam both donated life-saving stem cells to leukemia patients.
Ann Henegar, executive director of Project Life Movement, says it’s a long shot for one person to be a match and go on to donate. For two classmates, teammates and roommates to make it, she says, the odds are staggering.
The numbers back her up. Since 2018, Project Life Movement, a three-person operation based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has swabbed nearly 13,000 potential donors. They’ve had 198 matches, with 17 – including Friedrich and Wollam – being able to donate.
Friedrich and Wollam were swabbed on the same day in October 2019, when Henegar and Katie Fowler, the campus coordinator for Project Life, were on campus to promote the organization’s mission.
“Grant and I said we wanted to sign up and asked if we could swab right on the spot,” says Friedrich, who flew out Wednesday (Sept. 14) to begin graduate school in Newcastle, England. “They only had a couple of kits because it was an informational session. It was super easy and a really happy surprise.”
Wollam, who is in his second year of graduate school at Clemson University, didn’t have to wait long to learn he was a match. He was notified in January 2020 and flew to Boca Raton, Florida, in March 2020 to donate.
The process takes about a week to complete. Donors receive injections for the first four days to stimulate stem cell production. The cells are extracted on the fifth day, a procedure that takes several hours.
Wollam’s cells went to a 51-year-old leukemia patient. He donated a second time later in 2020 when the patient needed a booster.
“It’s an amazing feeling helping someone get through something like that,” Wollam says. “Not everyone gets to do that. Project Life Movement put me in a position to be able to save someone’s life, and it feels good to be able to do that.”
Friedrich was helping a friend move when he got the call in June. He says he texted Wollam to let him know while he was on the call.
Friedrich completed his donation on Aug. 31, also in Boca Raton. His cells went to a 50-year-old leukemia patient.
“This is easily the proudest thing I’ve ever done,” Friedrich says. “I’m extremely grateful to be able to help someone that I’m never going to meet who is going through something so heart-wrenching for them and their family. It really means the world to me.”
Henegar and Fowler will staff a Project Life Movement booth at the Mungo Exchange Block Party on Thursday, Sept. 22. Friedrich and Wollam say they hope they’ll be busy.
“It’s really easy, and it will make a big difference in your life knowing you’re able to save someone else,” Wollam says.