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ACU hosts bone marrow drive, raises funds to support former Wildcat


Earl Young ('62) and Kade Parmelly at UT Southwestern.
Earl Young ('62) and Kade Parmelly ('20) at UT Southwestern.

Kade Parmelly (’20), a recent Abilene Christian University alumnus and former Wildcat offensive lineman, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February, and the ACU community has rallied together to support him in a variety of ways. 

On Monday, ACU is hosting a bone marrow drive during Chapel at 11 a.m. in Moody Coliseum. In addition, the Kirk Goodwin Run on Saturday provided funds for his benefit.

“I feel really blessed that people want to help financially the way they have,” Parmelly said. “Any gift is a good gift from the Lord. I just don’t know how to say thank you enough. So many people came and visited the hospital, sent letters, and there’s just nothing that I can say or do to express how overwhelmingly thankful I’ve been over the last 40 to 45 days.”

Finding matches

Parmelly doesn’t yet know if he will need a bone marrow transplant, but for many blood cancer patients, a bone marrow transplant is the best chance for survival. Another ACU alumnus Earl Young (‘62) – the youngest gold medalist on the U.S. track and field team at the Rome Olympics in 1960 – now directs an organization that aims to beat blood cancer through donor awareness, particularly among young adults.

“Our work is dedicated to giving college students a chance to save a stranger’s life without jeopardizing their life at all,” Young said. “The bottom line is we’re talking about saving another person’s life, and Christ gives us this chance to save a life.”

In 2011, Young was given three months to live after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. A week after his diagnosis, a bone marrow drive was held in Germany, and one of the participants matched with Young. On Jan. 21, 2012, she flew from her hometown in Germany to donate her stem cells to Young.

“Because of her I am alive today,” Young said. “She was the only match of the 22 million on file at that time. If she had not become a stem cell donor, I would not be here today.”

Now, Young runs Earl Young’s Team which strives to increase public awareness for the need of donors to supply bone marrow for blood cancer patients, and to increase the number of volunteers who sign up to join the national registry. So far Young’s Team has secured 20 bone marrow matches through ACU. 

Monday’s Chapel will include a video message from Parmelly as well as information about Earl Young’s Team, and afterward, students will have a chance to register with DKMS, a national blood marrow registry.

“We are taking time in Chapel to celebrate what we value, and in this case, it is community,” said Cyrus Eaton, campus chaplain and dean of spiritual life. “We’re planning a time immediately following Chapel to include a tailgate and music while individuals have the chance to register.”

About Kade

Parmelly appeared in 40 games as a Wildcat after graduating from Wylie High School in Abilene. He earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 2020 and continued his football career at Duke University for the 2021 season. After graduating with a master’s degree from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, he landed a job as an account manager at PakEnergy in Abilene in August 2022. 

“I was really taken aback by ACU’s support because I transferred, and I’d been gone for almost two years.,” Parmelly said. “I was just so shocked and surprised, in a good way, just by the amount of people that want to help.”

For the next three to five months, Parmelly will be traveling to and from Dallas for treatment in addition to other daily medicines. His chemotherapy treatment will take place over the next three years, and he was recently able to return to work. He said he is still readjusting to normalcy after the events of the last month.

“After a couple hours of sitting there after my diagnosis, I realized this is my reality now,” Parmelly said. “I said ‘let’s do this, and let’s get better.’”

Additional support: the 39th Annual Kirk Goodwin Run

Another recent ACU event benefitted Parmelly as well – the 39th annual Kirk Goodwin Run that took place March 25 at Galaxy Park along the Lunsford Foundation Trail. The 5K run organized by Galaxy, an ACU fraternity, is dedicated to raising money for families in financial need. All proceeds raised from the run will directly benefit Parmelly and his treatment. 

Parmelly is a sponsor of a different fraternity – Gamma Sigma Phi – and this is the first time the two groups have collaborated for this event. Dillon Davis, sophomore biology major from Merkel and member of Galaxy, is helping to organize the upcoming event. 

“It has been so great to see everyone come together to support Kade,” Davis said. “It truly shows what the KGR is about, which is a way for the community to come together to support others in need.” 

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— Connor Mullins

March 27, 2023

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