Students at a Highland secondary school have been commended by a senior firefighter for giving those with blood cancer a second chance at life.
On Thursday, 9 March, a total of 70 pupils at Culloden Academy signed-up to a nationwide stem cell register managed by the UK’s leading blood cancer charity, Anthony Nolan.
It is the first time such an event has been held at a school in the Inverness area.
It was organised thanks to an award-winning partnership between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and Anthony Nolan.
The alliance between the two organisations aims to make young people aware they can save the lives of others including children, suffering from conditions such as leukaemia.
Signing-up for the stem cell register only involves providing a small sample of saliva, which is then used to identify potential matches.
Group Manager Fraser Nixon who is based in Inverness, said afterwards: “This is the first time we have taken the donor recruitment event into this area and the response we’ve had from pupils and teachers at Culloden Academy has been tremendous.
“They have really embraced this event and as a result, I’m pleased to say 70 young people were added to the register.
“Right now there are around 37,000 people worldwide in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Of this, less than a third will find a match within their family meaning events, such as this one, are absolutely vital.
“For pupils to join this life-saving register to help a complete stranger is admirable and I thank each of them for stepping forward.
“I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Culloden Academy and the Highland Council who have been extremely supportive of this event.”
SFRS staff across Scotland have helped add more than 8,000 people to Anthony Nolan’s list of potential donors.
This unique partnership has evolved over several years, from running donor recruitment events in fire stations and workplaces to more recent initiatives, which sees volunteers deliver presentations and recruitment events within secondary schools.
Somhairle Macdonald, Culloden Academy Guidance Teacher said: “We are delighted to be associated with Anthony Nolan and are proud to be the first Highland school to take part in an event like this.
“The response to the initial presentation has been typical of our pupils. More than double the number of volunteers asked for stepped forward to help organise the day and they have done a superb job of publicizing and running the event as well as recruiting their peers as donors.
“We hope to make this an annual event so that as many as possible of our pupils can contribute to the work of this fantastic charity.”
As well as increasing donor register numbers, another important area of the event is raising awareness of Anthony Nolan and the vital work they do.
Amy Bartlett, Regional Register Development Manager for Scotland, said: “This event at Culloden Academy is another amazing example of our lifesaving partnership with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, who continue to help us raise vital awareness about stem cell donation in Scotland.
“Our gratitude and special thanks go to Culloden Academy and the SFRS for helping us to recruit a new generation of potential Scottish lifesavers to the Anthony Nolan register.”
About 30 percent of people in need can find a suitable donor in their family but the remaining 70 percent rely on a stranger to save their lives.
After learning Anthony Nolan and the SFRS were coming to his school fifth-year student Sacha Coull was one of the first to step forward to help organise the event as a ‘school champion’.
The 16-year-old said: “When I heard about this event I volunteered straight away.”
It is hoped that many others around Sacha’s age will continue to come forward as they are at an ideal time of life to join the register.
Anyone in good health and aged between 16-30 can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register.
To find out how you can save a life go to www.anthonynolan.org/sfrs