In over 50 universities across the UK, our amazing Marrow students recruit donors to the Anthony Nolan register, raise vital funds, and spread the word. And every year, Marrowers come from across the country for our annual Marrow AGM, to discuss ideas, plan ahead, and celebrate all of their astonishing achievements.
This year, the Marrow AGM took place in Leeds – and Ellie from Cardiff Marrow was there to give us the scoop on a brilliant weekend. Over to you, Ellie!
Friday – Getting to the Marrow AGM
While I’m in my third year of both Cardiff University and Cardiff Marrow, it’s my second as Media Coordinator – and that means my second Marrow AGM.
This time around, I knew what to expect, so swapping the South for the North was as full of about as much excitement as you can squeeze into a Marrow Mobile…
When they’re not busy conjuring up new and inventive ways to save lives, it’s fair to say Marrowers know how to party, so no time was wasted in catching up over the medium of Fruity at Leeds SU.
Saturday – Workshops and the Marrow Fair
However, it was back to the real reason we were here come Saturday morning – so, with a helping hand of plenty of tea, we piled into the auditorium ready to properly start the Marrow AGM weekend.
Everyone in the Marrow world is so passionate about what they do that they basically live and breathe Marrow, so we probably needed no reminder about this year’s collective achievements. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate hearing it!
It was also invaluable to get a different perspective courtesy of Henny Braund, Anthony Nolan’s fantastic CEO, before National Marrow recapped what they’ve been getting up to.
National Marrow work efficiently both as a team in their own right, and with each branch, so we’re very lucky to have them on board.
It was also important to remember that while Marrow is a uni society, being in the Marrow world isn’t restricted to students. As it’s such a huge community, it can be hard to let go, and that’s where the Marrow Alumni programme steps in. Here, you can remain as involved as you’d like, while getting to grips with life beyond lecture theatres and spontaneous nights out, so it seems like something many of us will join forces with once graduation rolls around.
You can check out more here.
Breaking up the talks were the workshops, each tailored towards specific roles. Marrow groups work so well because lots of different skills come together, and here offered the chance to expand further on this.
With sessions for Presidents, Donor Recruitment, New Groups, Fundraising, Volunteer Management and Spreading the Word, there was certainly something for everyone. Being Media Coordinator, I went off to the last of the bunch, where we had to come up with character-limited solutions to celebrities’ would-be Tweets about Marrow. This was a really fun task which got the old brain matter whirring – hopefully something we’ll channel into our real social media – and I’m not only saying that because my team won! Personal faves included imagining what Kanye West and Donald Trump would have to say on the Marrow matter, and how we’d suitably debunk pesky myths…
Our next National Committee then pitched why we should vote for them, which definitely made for tough competition, while another stand-out was listening to Dr Rhys Morgan and Laura Regan, two speakers with incredible stories.
Rhys works in leukaemia research just over the border in Bristol, but that’s not his only personal connection to blood cancer. His brother David died of Hodgkins lymphoma in 2009 aged just 21, and this year, Rhys honoured his legacy by donating stem cells to give another patient their transplant. His live-tweeting of the process broke down many preconceptions, reminding potential donors just how simple yet rewarding joining the register is. You can check out what Rhys gets up to on Twitter.
Next we heard from Laura, a 22-year-old student from Aberdeen who first-hand knows how vital stem-cell transplants are – her own acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was cured by one. Laura’s blogged about her experiences and her talk hit home that getting the word out about Anthony Nolan is our number one priority.
We also made time for a Marrow Fair, touring stalls including International Marrow (yes, although Marrow is a British organisation in 50+ UK unis, it’s also found in Switzerland with a similar scheme, and with Be The Match, across the US), Design, Being on Brand, and Patients and Donors.
Saturday – Awards & Recognition
However, this hectic day wasn’t enough for an early night – Saturday was one of the main events in the form of dinner and awards.
After any initial confusion trying to recognise people in their glad-rags instead of trusty Marrow tops, and eating our body weights in the Great Marrow Bake Off desserts, the time had come to hear the winners. With categories spanning from Lifetime Achievement to Highest Donor Recruitment, it was fantastic to see a mix of teams and individuals singled out for their achievements.
I was also so surprised and grateful to be presented with the Outstanding Contribution Commendation – thank you, Marrow!
Cardiff Marrow were honoured to collect the well-deserved National Volunteer of the Year award on behalf of Alice Byron, who died aged just 21 this July, of acute myeloid leukaemia.
Alice’s blog taught readers worldwide about the realities of a transplant in a witty, endearing and unique way, and despite her own struggles she consistently brought something to all of our clinics. We’re determined to channel Alice’s legacy into everything we do in the future.
The night was captured by our resident photographer, Bea, who, after being inspired to join Cambridge Marrow following the Match4Lara campaign, is now Communications Intern at Anthony Nolan HQ. We then hit Tiger Tiger, which was probably a less photo-worthy occasion…
Sunday – #Match4Lara and the new National Committee
Marrow’s trademark surplus of tea soon shifted any lingering hangovers (well, partly) and on we cracked with the final day of the Marrow AGM extravaganza. After some recaps of A Year of Marrow, the new National Committee were announced, and I think I’m speaking on behalf of everyone when I say they seem like they’ll do the roles justice.
We separated into workshops like How Transplants Work, The Power of Patient Appeals, and The Secret to Young Men.
I attended Katie Day’s session on Marrow and Education, relating to Anthony Nolan’s expansion programme, R&Be, which goes into schools educating 16-18-year-olds about the whole thing before they come to uni – and, of course, join Marrow. This was really insightful, as it wasn’t something I previously knew much about!
One of my favourite elements of the Marrow AGM is always the guest speakers, and today’s were perhaps especially extraordinary. Many of you will remember this year’s Match4Lara, a global campaign prompting over 20,000 people to join the Anthony Nolan register.
Lara Casalotti is a 24-year-old student, whose Thai-Italian-Chinese heritage meant she struggled to find a donor to treat her leukaemia. However, her story made strides in diversifying the register, so hearing her brother Seb’s take on it was incredible.
We also listened to a rarer but vital perspective, of two lovely transplant nurses – meaning Marrow have well and truly found the balance between science, charity and everything else.
The final speaker of the Marrow AGM weekend may have been last, but certainly wasn’t least. George Stafford’s friends Aidan and Harry were both diagnosed with blood cancer at 14 – and he perfectly celebrated their survival by donating his own stem cells to another patient this February, aged just 19.
By the time Sunday afternoon drew to a close and the Marrow Mobile was all loaded for our return to Welsh soil, we were feeling a curious paradox; tired, yet full of new ideas and incentives!
It’s hard to whittle the Marrow AGM weekend down to one highlight; but Cardiff Marrow’s awards, meeting new keen-bean Marrowers, and trying our hands at different skills were vying to be named just that.
Thank you Marrow! I’m sad that this is my last year on committee before going off into the big wide world post-graduation, but am sure I’ll stay part of the team. Events like the Marrow AGM reinforce how crucial Anthony Nolan is to blood cancer patients and survivors like me, across the country and even further afield.
Being part of all that has been one of most unforgettable features of my university experience – so if you’re at uni, this is one society I can’t recommend joining enough.
For more Marrow goodness, follow Ellie on Twitter.