During his freshman year at Furman University, Kinsley participated in a bone marrow donor drive to aid a relative of a Furman tennis coach. Kinsley, a native of Manhasset, New York, submitted his information to Be The Match, a national marrow donor program.
He was not a match. His name remained in the Be The Match registry, but he did not hear back from the donor program, except for occasional generic marketing emails.
“I’d throw it right in the junk mail box,” said Kinsley, now a senior catcher on the Furman baseball team. “I was thinking it would never come up again.”
Kinsley’s assumption held until this winter, when a peculiar number popped up on his cell phone. It was from Be The Match.
“They were saying I’ve been identified as a possible match for a mother with leukemia,” Kinsley said. “It’s not something I thought about, really, but when the opportunity presented itself, it was one I was more than happy to take advantage of.”
Amid winter workouts, Kinsley underwent the preliminary tests and screenings. In February, he received another call. He no longer was classified as a possible match.
He was a perfect match.
“For someone to be a perfect match, you’re looking for that needle in a haystack.”Ashley Collier
“It is very rare to even be called as a potential match. That’s like only one in 70,000,” said Ashley Collier, the Be The Match South Carolina community engagement representative. “For someone to be a perfect match, you’re looking for that needle in a haystack.”
According to Collier, a bone marrow transplant is many patients’ last chance to defeat cancer.
“The chemotherapy is not going to work anymore. There’s no more going into remission. This is it,” Collier said. “For a patient, that may be their only match. There may not be other options, and that could mean their life.”
Grasping the gravity of the opportunity, Kinsley did not mind that being the needle in the haystack required him to take several needles in the arm.
“I didn’t think twice about it when given the offer,” Kinsley said. “Just knowing that it’s that important to that person and you’re able to help them even if you don’t know them.”
Kinsley will undergo the transplant procedure next week. He will be forced to sit out of Furman’s game at Clemson University on Tuesday.
“ I didn’t think twice about it when given the offer.”Jake Kinsley
“He’s going to miss probably close to a week of his senior year, the last year that he’s going to play baseball, and he loves baseball,” Furman coach Ron Smith said. “That’s an extraordinary sacrifice. In his eyes and our eyes, it’s well worth it, that one week compared to a lifetime for another person.”
Kinsley’s roommate, pitcher Matt Solter, said this sacrifice is a perfect match to Kinsley’s personality.
“He such a selfless kid, in every aspect of his life,” Solter said. “He doesn’t even want anybody thinking that what he’s doing is something super extraordinary, which it is. He mentioned it once, just to let me know what’s going on. Other than that, he hasn’t talked about it. He’s just a humble guy.”
Kinsley has started three games during his Furman career. He has compiled four hits through the past three seasons. Yet Smith asserted that statistics do not measure Kinsley’s impact on the team, campus and community.
Kinsley eagerly participates in the team’s service initiatives, including the Mauldin Miracle League and the annual Vs. Cancer Foundation fundraiser. Kinsley has been selected to the Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll while double-majoring in business administration and Chinese language studies. He already has accepted a post-graduation position with an investment bank in Atlanta.
“… There is a greater purpose out there, and I’m starting to see that now.”Jake Kinsley
“Jake embodies what you want in a student-athlete,” Smith said. “He’s very bright. He works very hard. He’s very unselfish. He gives of himself, which is unusual for some 18- to 22-year-olds. Now, for him to make this extraordinary sacrifice, it’s very special.”
Kinsley is not permitted to contact the recipient until a year after the transplant. He does not know where the patient lives or what stage of cancer she faces. He only hopes that his donation will allow her to live well beyond that contact date.
“I’m going to have to give up a little bit of what I love in baseball, but it’s all worth it, to help someone else out and give them another chance at life,” he said. “My mom and dad always say I’m not just playing sports to play sports. There is a greater purpose out there, and I’m starting to see that now.”
This article was selected for educational purposes only.