He didn’t feel that bad, really. Just a little sniffly and run down. So Earl Young, Olympic track and field gold medalist, then 70, made an appointment to see his doctor. He thought maybe he needed some antibiotics and he’d be on his way.

That same day he was admitted to the hospital. What he thought was a little infection turned out to be leukemia. Doctor’s told him that without a bone marrow transplant, he would be dead in three months.

Young visited York College recently to tell students his dramatic story and to ask them to register to be bone marrow donors with a simple cheek swab. Earl Young’s Team and the international organization DKMS, are on a mission to “Delete Blood Cancer.” Young works to increase awareness and register donors. Then DKMS matches those in need of bone marrow transplants with healthy donors who have registered. According to the DKMS website, every three minutes in the U.S., someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. For many patients, a bone marrow transplant is the best chance for survival. While 30 percent of patients can find a matching donor in their families, 70 percent—nearly 14,000 each year—must rely on a benevolent stranger to step up and donate.

A donor from Germany saved Young’s life with a bone marrow transplant in 2012. Since then, he has dedicated his life to traveling the world (often visiting college campuses) to ask others to register to be a potential life-saving match for someone struggling with leukemia and to raise funds for DKMS. “Because of Christine Waag, I’m alive today,” he told students. “She was the only match for my DNA out of 22 million people on file.”

“There are people waking up today wondering if they are going to find a donor. Wondering if they’re going to live,” Young told students. “You might be one that carries the DNA that matches them that keeps them alive.”

Many students responded to Young’s invitation to register with DKMS while he was on campus. (You can complete donor registry info and request a cheek swab kit via www.dkms.org.)

Young brought his gold medal to campus and let students try it on. “This travels with me everywhere,” said Young. “I love to take it around...it’s been around the necks of presidents and prime ministers and little kids in the Congo. It’s done a lot of traveling. That’s because it is to be shared. Yes, I won it, but it’s something I enjoy sharing with people. Not for ego satisfaction, but sharing with you what can happen.” Young competed at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and won a gold medal in the 4×400 meter relay, setting a new world record at 3.02.2. He finished sixth in the 400 meter, with a time of 45.9 s that matched the former Olympic record. At the 1963 Pan American Games, Young won gold medals in both 4×100 and 4×400 relays. He was Inducted into the Texas Track and Field Coaches Hall of Fame, Class of 2015.