By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Dero Sanford
A successful bone marrow transplant that saved a young life in 1979 was the inspiration for a global initiative that connects individuals and transforms the future for families. The Be The Match Registry is a community of donors, volunteers and health care professionals that offers a cure for individuals with blood cancers. Hunter Bale recognizes Be The Match as a powerful resource for patients like his brother Hardin who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.
The Bale family has a rich history throughout the state. For more than a century, Bale Chevrolet has enriched the lives of Arkansans with a company culture of generosity + fellowship. Stewardship includes support of Arkansas Children’s, Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation and Catholic High School Foundation. “We have been so blessed, we feel that we need to give back to the community in any way possible,” Hunter notes.
“When Hardin was told that he would require a bone marrow transplant and I was not a match, we learned that the bone marrow registry was the next best option,” Hunter remembers. The Be The Match Registry is comprised of more than 22 million potential donors. As the global leader in bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation, Be The Match provides support and resources for patients through its comprehensive network of partners. “With the help of many people that work with us as well as friends and family members, we organized a two-day event at the dealership. More than 1,000 Arkansans registered with Be The Match,” Hunter explains.
In partnership with Ozark Mission Project, Bale Chevrolet will host another registry event later this month. It’s at the heart of both organizations: family, fellowship and service. “The number of conditions that are treatable through life-saving bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants is surprising,” Hunter elaborates. “And the process of joining Be The Match is as easy as brushing your teeth. It is just a swab that is rubbed on the inside of your cheek.” Ozark Mission Project Executive Director Bailey Faulkner, a close friend, notes the collaboration is dual purpose. “I heard about Be The Match when Hardin was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a match for a transplant. Even though a match was not found for him, we have heard stories of people who did ‘find their match’ and of people who were called ‘to be the match’ as a result of the initial Bale event,” Bailey elaborates. “Now, we want to share this opportunity with our Ozark Mission Project volunteers – many of whom are in college; the perfect demographic to qualify and encourage other students to do the same. They will experience a new sense of community, albeit different during a pandemic and can still impact others in a very significant way.”
Hunter finds opportunity in every situation and believes that his family, which includes colleagues at Bale Chevrolet and other dealerships throughout the years, is poised to make a difference in the community and continue a legacy of service. “I don’t care if the cup is half empty, half full or empty. I’m the lucky person who gets to fill the cup!” Bailey adds, “We have a safe way for people to swing by Bale Chevrolet and join the registry. Participants never have to leave their cars. This no-contact drive honors the memory of Hardin, who lost his battle to cancer in 2019, with the hope that others will find a match. Driving your car to Bale literally could save someone’s life.”