Why Mia Runs with March for Marrow
When Mia was a shy, petite five-year-old who enjoyed reading and making up plays with her sisters, an eight-year-old boy, Garrett John Hamm, walked into her family’s life as the second of the family’s adopted sons. The minute Garrett tasted the security and freedom of being part of a “forever family” in the relative safety of Air Force base housing he was out the door and down the street seeking friendships and pick-up games wherever he could find them – and Mia was right behind him.
Garrett began to call Mia his “secret weapon” and she proved him right with her burgeoning athletic ability and understanding of the strategy involved in basketball, football and then soccer. As they grew into their teen years they were both recognized as desirable team members and Mia was recruited to the Women’s National Soccer Team at 15 while Garrett was playing football, baseball, and basketball for Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, and his batting average attracted the attention of the Texas Rangers. But that is where the parallels end.
In August of 1987, Garrett was at the first scrimmage for the high school football season. It was a hot day, and everyone was in their cropped practice jerseys. Garrett was hit and instantaneously bruises developed all over his torso. Fortunately, a dad who was a doctor was on the sidelines and had him pulled from the field. Garrett was diagnosed with a bone marrow failure disease. After treatments with Prednisone he seemed to go into remission and he returned to playing baseball and basketball – but never his favorite game of football.
Four years later, while attending Long Beach State, Garrett came out of remission, his blood counts went almost to zero, and he was sentenced to monthly blood transfusions and years of uncertainty. He married and had a son for whom he wanted to try a very high-risk bone marrow transplant. In 1996 he attended the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and saw Mia and her team win the gold. As a mixed-race, adopted patient he could only find his biological father who was a half-match. Although Garrett’s blood counts were rising after the transplant, an aspergillus fungus invaded his body and he passed away at 28 years of age, April 16, 1997. Mia, Garrett’s wife, Cherylynn, and the entire family were at his side.
Ever since losing her mentor and idol, Mia has dedicated her life to recruiting potential marrow donors to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). She has served on their Board, raised funds for NMDP, dedicated her own Foundation to supporting families and helped build protective housing for patients and families going through transplants.
When her schedule permits she comes to run – she just wants to see more runners enjoy the flat, fast and scenic course along the Long Beach shoreline, to learn about bone marrow failure diseases and to GET SWABBED! As she says, “This run is perfect for new and seasoned runners. When I can, I run it in memory of my brother, Garrett.”