Written by Erin Dunne, Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

Many of us subconsciously rely on the simple kindness of strangers to get us through our days. A stranger decides to stop at the crosswalk and allows us to pass so we are not late for class; a stranger takes our order at the local coffee joint that allows us to successfully start out our days; a stranger moves out of the way when you merge onto a busy highway.

In everyday monotonous life, we rely on strangers to look out for us in unassuming ways because we hold an unspoken pact to follow the social norms of our society.

However, some gestures from strangers are bigger than everyday life. For some, they can differentiate between the life and death of the stranger.

Kevin Cataldo, who is in his second season as the assistant cross country and track & field coach, recently participated in a bone marrow transplant that will help to save the life of a 26-year-old battling leukemia.

While at the USTFCCCA Coaches Convention last December, Cataldo learned of a fellow coach who was on the receiving end of a bone marrow transplant from the Be The Match Foundation that saved his life.

“Right then and there, I thought ‘maybe the odds of a match are really rare, but I should sign up,” he recalled.

While Cataldo signed up at the convention, each year the Blue Hens football program also teams up with Be The Match, which provides bone marrow transplants to individuals with life threatening blood cancers. Students and employees of the University are welcome to participate in the drive through a simple cheek swab, which is then tested to determine if the donor is eligible.

The odds of getting a match with a total stranger is under 30 percent, but Cataldo decided to test his chances and register anyway. 

When Cataldo received the call that he was on the other end of a 25 percent chance match with this 26-year-old leukemia patient, he had no hesitations about donating.

“The first thing that went through my head was ‘I’m only two years older than this guy,’” he mentioned. “It wasn’t about me at that point, it was putting myself in his shoes and thinking that I would want someone to donate to me.”

While many shy away from donating bone marrow because of the somewhat complicated and potentially painful process, Cataldo jumped into the opportunity.

“It really hit home. I thought ‘wow he’s so young, he has so much life to live,’” commented Cataldo. “I just thought it was the right thing to do.”

After a long series of doctor’s appointments and five days of injections that extracted the bone marrow, causing painful bone soreness, Cataldo sat with a needle in his arm for nine hours to complete the process.

His willingness to do what he believes “is the right thing” does not go unnoticed by his fellow coaches or student-athletes.

“It speaks highly of his character,” remarked Wendy McFarlane, Delaware cross country and track & field head coach. “What Kevin has done is something anyone should model. He has set the stage for an example to follow.”

For one of his student-athletes, it strikes a personal note. Liz McGroarty is a sophomore distance runner for the Blue Hens whose family has been affected by pediatric cancer.  She works at a summer camp for kids battling pediatric cancer and says this touches a nerve in her heart.

“He shows that he’s giving back, so we should give back,” McGroarty exclaimed. “He is a very strong role model, everyone definitely looks up to him in training and in life. This just shows he is a good person, he cares about others, and wants to help.”

McGroarty recognizes that her coach’s humility about the entire process shows the modest outlook he takes on life and his desire to help others.

“It’s not the recognition that counts, its knowing that you did this for someone else.”

“He has a good heart,” said McFarlane. “It is a hero thing as well as a role model. I am lucky to have him on my staff.”

As for Cataldo, his humility and generosity shines in his positive outlook on the entire process. He is even preparing to go back to donate T-cells to the stranger whose life he is helping to save.

Additionally, the Colonial Athletic Association recently paired up with Be The Match and all of the football teams in the league will be encouraging others to donate on a day-wide celebration on October 31st.

 “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Cataldo advised.

Cataldo and the Blue Hens host their final home meet of the season this Saturday at White Clay Creek State Park beginning at 10 a.m.