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Veteran's selfless act gives Leukemia patient halfway around the world a fighting chance, encourages others to donate

It was just before his tour to Iraq in 2010 when Chris Hegg signed up with 'Salute to Life' the military version of the 'Be the Match' registry.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Every year, thousands of patients who are fighting Leukemia and other blood cancers find themselves in need of a matching donor to receive a marrow or stem cell transplant.

That's where the 'Be the Match' registry helps. 

This weekend, an event is being held in hopes of adding more names to that registry.

It was just before his tour to Iraq in 2010 when Chris Hegg signed up with 'Salute to Life' the military version of the 'Be the Match' registry.

It wouldn't be until seven years later when he would get called up to serve in a different way.

"I receive an email and phone call saying I matched with a 17-year-old girl with Leukemia in Europe. Asked if I still wanted to donate, absolutely, how can you say no to help someone survive from cancer," said Chris Hegg.

Hegg was a perfect match and before he knew it, he was on his way with an all-expenses paid trip to Georgetown University for the donation procedure.

It was a process he said was no different than giving blood.

"To me it's the most selfless thing I've ever done in my life. I can't say enough that I was able to help somebody. Selfless on my end because I don't know who the recipient was, what her name was, where she lived at, I just knew a small bit.  To match someone halfway around the world, is amazing," said Hegg.

"When a family reaches out to be the match, it's basically their last chance for hope. Only 30 percent of blood cancer patients have a match in their family, 70 percent do not," said Leticia Mondragon with Be the Match.

Mondragon is with the national office for the nonprofit. She explained the need for donors of all ethnic backgrounds never ends.

"This past year has been difficult because of the COVID guidelines, we are used to going to big universities and sign up about 1000 students. We haven't been able to do that," said Mondragon.

That is where Hegg, who is now CEO of his own company Phoenix Technology Consulting in Corpus Christi, is stepping up to the plate once again, all to help a cause near and dear to his heart.

He's hosting an event called Stars, Stripes, and Save Lives to help bring awareness about the Be the Match registry.

"Having someone like him be a huge advocate for us, is wonderful," said Mondragon.

The free event will be held Saturday at Heritage park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Everyone is welcome to attend but to register you must be 18-44 years old.

Everyone who registers will receive a raffle ticket to be entered in a giveaway with prizes worth up to $500.

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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