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Columbia Falls woman raises awareness, money for bone marrow registry

Donation bucket at North Valley Eagles

After a cancer diagnosis rocked a Columbia Falls family, one member decided to take the upsetting news and use it to help others.

A bingo game might seem like a simple game to win money. But at North Valley Eagles Club in Columbia Falls it is so much more.

"We have bingo that we are raising money for,” said North Valley Eagles trustee Jay Beranek. “Every third game half the pot goes to that charity."

The charity this month is one Beranek is an ambassador for. It's called BeTheMatch.org. The site is a registry for bone marrow transplants to help cancer patients receive life-saving care.

For Beranek the nonprofit hits close to home.

"My brother was diagnosed with leukemia, and instead of curling up in a ball and crying, I decided to do something positive,” Beranek told NBC Montana. “I found out he had matches in case he needed a bone marrow transplant. From there I went and contacted BeTheMatch. So I wanted to go and learn more and do as much as I could to help other people."

The registry found donor matches for her brother. Unfortunately Beranek did not qualify as a donor because she’s had cancer.

Beranek now volunteers for the nonprofit by spreading awareness and signing people up to become bone marrow donors. "It means a lot to me, because then I can go and get people on the registry, because someone who gets on the registry through us may save someone else's life," said Beranek.

She is also selling bracelets and other things to support her brother's fight. Her family plays bingo to support her cause.

"We just couldn't be more proud of her," said Beranek’s aunt Cookie Erhamer.

"I'm darn proud and it makes me happy," said Beranek’s father David Beranek.

Beranek has volunteered with the North Valley Eagles for years now, but this time the cause is extra important to her.

Friday night is steak fry night at the North Valley Eagles. Beranek will have a 50/50 raffle, and half of the prize money will be donated to BeTheMatch.org.

All of the month of May people can come out on Wednesday nights to play bingo and donate money.

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