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Ricky Martinez has an army. When the nine year-old Murrieta boy was stricken with aplastic anemia, a disease that causes bone marrow to produce blood cells at a reduced rate, CSU San Marcos professor Scott Landow urged his two Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship classes to take action.

Less than a month later, Ricky’s Army is on the CSUSM campus recruiting students to join the National Marrow Donor Program, a registry of individuals willing, if matched, to donate the bone marrow needed to cure Ricky’s disease and dozens of others.

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The registry process is simple and open to almost anyone between the ages of 18 and 60. A few forms are completed, then registrants are asked to swirl a cotton swab in their mouth for a few seconds. The swabbing process is completed four times, on the upper and lower cheeks to the left and right sides. An entire registration, including paperwork and a review of the commitment being made when signing up (that you’ll be willing to donate if called upon) can be completed in about five minutes.

The donation process as described is also fairly simple. Three-fourths of doctors request PBSC donation, which is a non-surgical procedure in which donors take a drug to boost production of blood-forming cells that are later extracted from blood that’s returned to the body. More rarely, doctors may withdraw liquid marrow itself from the back of a donor’s pelvic bone – in a healthy subject the marrow will regenerate within a few weeks.

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While Ricky’s Army is only a few weeks old, they’ve already developed a presence on Facebook, have reserved a domain name where they’ll soon launch a website, and are hoping to hold registry events at other colleges across the county and, eventually, across the country.

At a two hour event targeting a handful of campus sororities and fraternities the night before the official drive began, the group added 200 names to the registry. By 11:30 this morning that figure had almost doubled. The Army will have three locations set up around the CSUSM campus through tomorrow afternoon, by which time they hope to collect 2,000 new volunteers.

Jaime DeBlassio, a student working one of the booths, took a moment to tell Ricky’s story and explain the need for a larger pool of donors:

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