BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater-Raritan High School sophomore Shreya Nuli has partnered with the township to hold bone marrow drives once a month for the next six months to help those in dire need of bone marrow transplants.

The first drive was held Nov. 19 as part of Bone Marrow Awareness Month in November, and they will be held at the Bridgewater Township Library, on Vogt Drive, once a month from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. through June.

Nuli said she saw some of her close friends go through life changing events, like dealing with blood cancer.

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"I have seen firsthand how such events can transpire so quickly to a 'Race of Life Against Time,' especially when they are in dire need of a bone marrow transplant," she said. "After a bit of research online, I figured I have the potential and means to contribute positively and give back to the community."

Nuli said she decided to conduct the drives in collaboration with a National Bone Marrow Drive organization.

Many patients diagnosed with blood cancer have to undergo a bone marrow transplant, and finding a match is very difficult.

The non-profit organization, Be-The-Match, maintains a national registry database with donor marrow information, and when a patient is in need of a match, he or she is searched against the database.

In terms of statistics, Nuli said, each year, leukemia kills more children than any other cancer, and more than 130,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a serious blood disease this year. Only 30 percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant have a matching donor in their families, she said.

The remaining 70 percent of patients have to hope to find a compatible stranger using the national registry, Nuli said. But at least 3,000 people die each year because they cannot find a matching donor, she said.

Nuli said donating bone marrow is completely safe.

"To that effect, I want to volunteer to conduct marrow drives to help facilitate and increase the odds of finding a match in need," she said.

To participate in a drive and become a donor, people just need to have their cheek swabbed with a q-tip. To register, a person swabs the inside of his or her cheek to provide the DNA needed to identify a match.

People between the ages of 18 and 44 are welcome to join the registry at community donor drives. Those ages 45 to 60 can join the registry via the National Marrow Donor Program online registration process.

Once a match is determined, Nuli said, a bone marrow donation happens in one of two ways. Either blood can be drawn from a donor's arm, put in a machine where stem cells are separated and returned through the other arm, or cells can be extracted from the hip bone.

After a donation, Nuli said, bone marrow replaces itself within four to six weeks. People ages 18 to 25 years old are the bone marrow donors needed most.

Nuli said she has been working in conjunction with Be-the-Match to help support the cause of helping to conduct drives in the community by volunteering her time.

"The township of Bridgewater has been exceptionally supportive and encouraged this noble cause, without which I would not have come this far to conduct the drives right here in our Bridgewater library," she said.

The drives will be held Dec. 10, Jan. 7, Feb. 11, March 18, April 22, May 20 and June 24.