Dallas

1960 Olympic Gold Medalist Saves Lives Through Foundation

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Earl Young is excited about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

“This is just such an exciting time for the athletes and for the world,” Young said.

He knows first-hand how they feel, considering he was one of them in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

“It was incredible. I won a gold medal there in the 4x400 and was a part of the world record-setting team,” Young said. “But that feels like a lifetime ago. I was just 19 at the time.”

Young, who now lives in Dallas, recently turned 80 on Valentine's Day and is thankful he has made it to this point.

“In 2011, I went to the doctor for a nagging cough. I just couldn’t get rid of it. I went in and he had asked me how long it had been since I had had a checkup. I said about four years. He did all the tests and said that my whites just weren’t there, and you know the white cells are your immune system,” Young said.

He was referred to Texas Oncology to get more tests. He walked out with an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis and the doctor said he might have three months to live.

“I asked the doctor if there were any other options. If there was a way, I could beat it. He said a bone marrow transplant would do it,” Young said.

So, the search began for a donor. Someone who would be able to save Young’s life.

The search yielded one match out of 22 million that were on file around the world. The woman who saved his life was in Germany. Her donation flown from Frankfurt to DFW Airport and quickly given to Young. The transplant saved his life.

“I’m just so thankful to be here. I’m a believer and this whole ordeal really shaped my spiritual life,” he said. “But during all of this, I found that only four out of 10 people can get a chance at a longer life through a bone marrow transplant will actually find a match.”

From that transplant, Young decided to do something good to help others dealing with blood cancers. He started Earl Young’s Team. A nonprofit that visits predominately faith-based college campuses to educate students on the need for bone marrow donors and how they can help. The first donor drive was held in 2015 at Abilene Christian University, where he is in the Sports Hall of Fame.

“We go to the faith-based organizations because many of the students go to Chapel. So we go there and talk to them about how they might be able to save a life,” Young said.

Through Earl Young’s Team, 16,000 students have been swabbed to be added to the donor registry. Out of those, 61 people have been given a chance at a longer life.

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