GROVE CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Trenten Rupp just finished a particularly rough day of football practice at Grove City College when his cell phone rang.
It was a number he didn’t recognize.
Usually, he ignored such calls. Not this one.
For some reason, Rupp felt compelled to answer.
Because he did, it may save the life of a 3-year-old girl.
Months earlier, the 2021 Redbank Valley graduate and sophomore cornerback for the Wolverines, submitted a DNA sample to the Be The Match organization when one of its representatives came to the Grove City campus.
For 30 years, the organization has been helping people who have been diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, as well as other blood-borne illnesses, by operating one of the largest and most diverse marrow registries in the world.
College campuses are great places for Be The Match to add to its extensive database.
Rupp jumped at the chance to offer a sample, never really thinking he would be a match for anyone.
But he was.
When he answered the phone on that fateful day at the end of September, the woman on the other end of the line explained he was a perfect match for a very sick 3-year-old girl.
“You’re the only person in our database of over two million who can give this girl a chance to live,” she said.
Rupp was in shock. He was immediately flooded with emotions.
Goosebumps raised on his arms. He had to hold back the tears.
“It feels like a total miracle,” he said.
Being a match is extremely rare. Being such an ideal one is almost statistically impossible.
“I signed up not thinking anything of it,” Rupp said. “When she called and told me, she then asked me that even though I signed up for the database, if I wanted to back out of it. I guess a lot of people when they get that phone call back out, as hard as that would be to swallow.”
Rupp couldn’t fathom doing something like that.
He was in. No matter what he needed to do next.
“The day that they found me, they called the recipient to tell them they found somebody,” Rupp said. “I can’t imagine having to tell that family, ‘Hey, this guy is a perfect match, but he decided not to go through with it.’ It was a no-brainer for me. I knew when I signed up that it was something that if that opportunity found me, that I was all-in on it.”
The next step for Rupp was to have his blood tested even more rigorously to make sure he was, indeed, an idea match for the girl.
If Rupp’s blood checks out, the next step for him will be to fly him to a facility somewhere in the United States where either stem cells from his blood or bone marrow will be extracted.
With young children, bone marrow is usually the best recourse because of the low rate of rejection.
Rupp is still waiting for confirmation that he is a match for the girl he has never met.
He doesn’t know her name. Her background. Anything about her, really. He doesn’t even know what part of the world she lives.
Be The Match designed it that way.
“All they told me is she’s a 3-year-old with immunodeficiency,” Rupp said. “When she gets infections or any illness, she can’t fight them off, and she has about six months to live.”
Rupp said he is willing to whatever is required to give this girl a chance at life.
“The coordinators of Be the Match have been super cooperative and willing to adjust to anything I need,” Rupp said. “I’ve told them, my coaches, my family — everybody knows that this is a priority right now. I’m not afraid to miss football or anything like that.”
Rupp said he believes there was a greater power at work.
So many things had to fall just the right way for Rupp to be a match for this little girl.
He had to be willing to give a sample in the spring. He had to answer an unknown call at the end of September. He had to fill out and extensive medical questionnaire and undergo blood draws for testing.
Rupp was willing to do it all. He is this girl’s one-in-two-million chance.
“I’m strong in my faith,” Rupp said. “That’s part of the reason why I’m at Grove City. From the moment Be the Match came last April, there was something nudging me. I don’t know how to explain it. Something was telling me, ‘Man, you just have to do this.’
“I was sitting in a row and over half the guys in my row didn’t swab their cheeks that day,” Rupp added. “I could have very easily followed the pack, but something was nudging me. It just felt like God was telling me there was something here. Just do it. And I did. And, honestly, I don’t have the words thinking about it.”
Rupp is hoping his story will encourage others to sign up and submit a sample.
He urges anyone interested to visit the Be The Match website and support the cause.
“One phrase I live by is, ‘Your cause is bigger than yourself,'” Rupp said. “This story isn’t about me. It’s about contributing to more than just yourself. … I encourage everyone who is medically stable to join the Be the Match registry. You never know how many lives you can positively impact by simply sending in a DNA swab. A lot of people are making me out to be this hero after hearing my story. I didn’t do anything super heroic. … Saving a life is something you’ll never regret. I promise.
“I feel like this is all part of God’s plan for my life,” Rupp added. “I have full faith that I’m in His care and the recipient is, too.”