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NASCAR Mothers Endorse 'Thanks Mom!' Donor Drive

CONCORD, N.C. (May 11, 2006) - Three NASCAR mothers and wives, Kim Labonte, Mary Evernham and Ramona Vickers, are getting behind the wheel to drive support to the Thanks Mom! Marrow Donor Recruitment Campaign taking place in more than 80 cities around the country this Mother’s Day weekend.

This super-charged group is sounding the call for more volunteer donors who want to give the gift of life by joining the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) Registry:

- Kim Labonte, Thomasville, N.C., wife of NASCAR “iron man” Terry Labonte. The Labontes have hosted several donor drives in North Carolina.

- Mary Evernham, Charlotte, N.C., spent many years on the racing circuit helping out however needed, from sewing sponsor patches on the drivers uniforms, to measuring the heat in the tires. Mary has retired from the track and focuses full-time on her family, including 14-year old son Ray J., who battled leukemia as a toddler.

- Ramona Vickers, Thomasville, N.C., mother of driver Brian Vickers, 2003 NASCAR Busch Series champion.  Ramona understands the importance of getting involved to help those in need.

Founded in 1997 by Rick Hendrick, the Hendrick Marrow Program of The Marrow Foundation® works to increase donor recruitment in the NMDP Registry and provides financial assistance for patients receiving blood cell transplants.  Kim, Mary and Ramona have joined with the Hendrick Marrow Program to answer the call of thousands of men, women and children who desperately need a marrow or cord blood transplant to save their lives.

“By joining the National Marrow Donor Program Registry this Mother’s Day, you can share the gift of life with someone in need,” said Evernham.

For a chance to survive, patients with life-threatening blood diseases such as leukemia need healthy marrow and blood cells to help their bodies make new, healthy marrow.  These patients can turn to the NMDP Registry –- the largest source for all types of blood and marrow cells available for unrelated transplants.

As a host of several marrow donor drives in her hometown, Kim Labonte knows how simple it is to take the first step in giving a patient in need of a transplant hope.

“Joining the NMDP Registry is easy, it’s convenient and it could save someone’s life,” Labonte said.  “Do it for your mom this Mother’s Day, do it for your community, do it for yourself.”

The characteristics that determine whether a patient and donor match are inherited, so the most likely match is with a sibling.  However, 70 percent of patients will not find a suitable matching donor in their family.

Ramona Vickers’ driving force behind getting involved in Thanks Mom! is simple.

“When something happens to one, it happens to us all,” she said.  “If a member of your family needed a marrow or cord blood transplant, you’d want someone to help.  This is a chance for you to help someone else.”

Anyone age 18-60 who meets the health guidelines can join the NMDP Registry.  Volunteers should be committed to helping any patient in need.  To join, volunteers complete a short health questionnaire and sign a form stating that they understand what it means to be listed on the NMDP Registry.  Then, a small swab of cheek cells is taken to determine the tissue type to be matched against patients who need a donor.  This information is added to the NMDP Registry.

About the National Marrow Donor Program
The NMDP facilitates unrelated marrow and blood cell transplants as the hub for a long-standing collaborative Network of national and international leading medical facilities in blood and marrow transplantation. The NMDP connects patients, doctors, donors and researchers to the resources they need to help more people live longer and healthier lives.

About the Hendrick Marrow Program
Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, established the Hendrick Marrow Program at The Marrow Foundation in 1997 after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Even though he did not need a marrow transplant himself, he wanted to help other patients who did not have the resources to find a marrow match or to cover the uninsured transplant-related costs that are often barriers to treatment. The Hendrick Marrow Program works in collaboration with The Marrow Foundation to increase access to transplantation by raising support for the Foundation’s partner, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), in two key areas: donor recruitment and patient assistance.

For more information about marrow and blood cell donation, contact the NMDP at 1-800-MARROW-2.

Online information is available at www.marrow.org/thanksmom.