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Love Hope Strength a natural fit for Denver coach, cancer survivor George Karl

Cancer awareness group helps Nuggets fans save lives

Saving a life can be as easy as attending a Denver Nuggets game.

Throughout the 2011-12 Nuggets season, hundreds of people provided a DNA cheek swab to register with Love Hope Strength, a cancer awareness group that helps match cancer patients with potential bone-marrow donors.

The more people who register, the more chance we have to get great matches and the better chance we have of improving the process and saving peoples lives, Nuggets coach George Karl said. Its a no-brainer to me.

As a two-time cancer survivor (prostate in 2005 and head and neck in 2010), Karl partnered with LoveHopeStrength when he launched the George Karl Foundation in March 2012.

For the past few years, weve been under coach Karls nose at Pepsi Center doing bone marrow drives, LHS executive director Shannon Foley said. When hes working, we can be saving lives. Were excited to get him involved in what were doing because people listen when he speaks.

Foley sends e-mail updates to Karl, telling him how many bone-marrow matches there were nationwide in a given month. In 2010, there was a match from someone who registered with LHS at the Nuggets game against the San Antonio Spurs.

They do a great job, Karl said. It makes you feel good and its a pretty simple thing.

Karl, whose son Coby is a thyroid cancer survivor, believes bone-marrow registration should be mandatory in the United States. The process could be handled in a matter of minutes as a requirement of receiving a drivers license.

I have no idea why we dont make it an incentive for every American to register their bone marrow, Karl said. That doesnt mean you will be called, and if you are called, it doesnt mean you will have to do it. You could live until 80 and you might never get a phone call.

For those who are identified as a possible match, they are asked to donate blood for additional testing. Advances in medicine and technology have made the complete process easier and less invasive. It rarely involves an overnight hospital stay.

If you had to be the donor in the past, it was somewhat painful. Its not that way anymore, Karl said. You have to spend a couple hours in the hospital, but its for a good cause. I wouldnt even know how I would feel if I helped save someones life. It would be pretty powerful to me.

Co-founded in 2007 by leukemia survivors Mike Peters of the rock band The Alarm and CSI Entertainment president James Chippendale, Love Hope Strength has registered more than 19,000 people to be potential bone marrow donors, leading to 260 matches (and counting) worldwide.

The registration drives at Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche games are made possible through Love Hope Strength's partnership with KeyBank, a longtime sponsor at Pepsi Center. KeyBank selected LHS as its charity partner and donates $10,000 per team per season to the organization.

Love Hope Strength also registers potential bone marrow donors at Colorado Mammoth lacrosse matches and Colorado Rapids soccer games, as well as at concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater and Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

Foley said more bone marrow donors have been found at the Mile High Music Festival at DSG Park than at any other event in the world.

The big thing were trying to do is tell people how easy it is to register, Foley said. In todays economic world, its hard to ask people get involved by giving money. This is a way to get involved without digging into their pockets.

For more information on Love Hope Strength and how to donate or register, visit

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...