Veronica Giordano is only 15, but she's probably already saving lives.
The home-schooled Huntersville girl is nearing her goal of registering 2,000 people on the national Be the Match Registry of marrow donors.
Veronica decided to act after her uncle Carlos Santiago of New York died of MDS, a bone marrow stem cell disorder.
A matching marrow donor could have saved him.
"I felt even though he did pass away, I could continue his legacy and give a transplant to other people," she said.
Veronica contacted Addie Sanders at the Charlotte office of Be the Match Registry, which has 8million willing donors nationwide.
Veronica called Sanders 11/2 years ago and has assisted at Be the Match drives across the Charlotte region ever since.
At a Feb. 22 drive at UNCCharlotte's student union, I listened in as Veronica explained to donors how to swab their cheeks to get on the national registry. Veronica handled all of their paperwork, too.
She was so professional I could hardly believe she's the youngest of the Be the Match office's volunteer ambassadors. Veronica helped register 166 donors that day.
The daughter of Rick and Helen Giordano, Veronica is so passionate about her cause that she has created two Web sites to get out the word and raise donations. One of her sites sells jewelry and donates the profits to an MDS research foundation.
She's also clipping chunks of her yard-long hair throughout her campaign. She donates the locks to make Pantene Beautiful Lengths wigs, which are distributed for free to female cancer patients through American Cancer Society wig banks.
Veronica's mom is astounded at her daughter's tireless work registering people for Be the Match.
"I can't believe how much she's done," said Helen Giordano, a registered nurse in obstetrics at Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville. "This was her idea. She met Miss Addie on her own. She was only 13."
Veronica, who wants to become a veterinarian, said she registered her first person onto the marrow list two days after she turned 14.
Wherever her life journey leads, she said, she plans to keep the marrow effort up.
She knows it makes a difference. At the UNCC drive, I met Patrick Nance, 38, of Mount Pleasant and two other previous marrow donors who had ended up as matches for patients elsewhere in the country and world.
Why had he donated?
"I would want someone to do it for someone I love," he explained.
Veronica isn't quite old enough to donate. The day she turns 18, the minimum donation age, she'll swab her cheeks using the kit she has at home.
She is 44 minutes older than her twin, Eric.
"I'll make Eric sign up 44 minutes after I do," she vowed.