Every once in a while, we experience defining moments that change us profoundly. Earl Young will never forget the two that set him on a path to saving lives.
The first took place 61 years ago when the Olympic athlete led his team to victory and set a world record at the tender age of 19. The second? When a woman he’d never met gave him the gift of life!
Earl’s shot at the Olympics came when he was studying at Abilene Christian University. His speedy legs nabbed him a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team — and a chance to compete at the 1960 Games in Rome! While he finished sixth place in the individual 400-meter finals at 45.9 seconds, he ran faster than anyone had in prior Olympics.
Two days later, he ran the second leg of the 4×400-meter relay, maintaining Team USA’s first-place lead until his teammates took the baton home. Not only did they win gold, but they also set an Olympic and world record with their finish time of 3:02.2!
Decades passed, and Earl experienced a different kind of glory. In 2011, he went to the doctor for what he thought was the common cold and got life-changing news. He was diagnosed with an aggressive type of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia. This time, he needed someone else to help him win the race against time.
And in she came like his own personal guardian angel! A few months after Earl’s diagnosis, he found the perfect genetic match for a bone marrow transplant in Germany.
Christine Waag had no idea whom she would be helping when she decided to participate in a local bone marrow donor drive. What she did know was that donating “was the right thing to do.” Meeting her recipient later down the road only confirmed that.
As for Earl, he was determined to make Christine’s gift count. It was time to join a new team — Earl Young’s Team.
He founded the organization with a mission “to defeat blood cancer through donor awareness.” The goal is simple yet incredibly impactful: to inspire people around the world to join the national registry of potential donors. All it takes is a simple swab!
If you ask Earl, winning an Olympic gold medal doesn’t come close to the amazing work he’s doing now. The best part? You can help by joining his team here!
Learn more about the inspiration behind Earl Young’s Team in the video below, and share this story to spread awareness.
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