With her blend of Japanese, Greek, Armenian, Egyptian, and Italian ancestry, 33-year-old Athena Mari Asklipiadis fits squarely in the mixed-race population, one of the top two fastest-growing racial groups in the U.S. Nearly a decade ago, she discovered one of the biggest hurdles people with mixed backgrounds face: finding a bone marrow match.

After her aunt died of lymphoma in 2007, Asklipiadis was looking to get involved in cancer awareness activism when she heard about Krissy Kobata, a young mixed-race woman in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant to treat her myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder that in some people will progress to leukemia. Successful bone marrow transplants rely on a match between the donor’s and recipient’s tissue type; because these types vary depending on ethnic background, some multiethnic people can have especially obscure ones and endure interminable waits for a match. Finding one is akin, experts say, to winning the lottery.

To help speed the process, Asklipiadis started Mixed Marrow, an L.A.-based organization that has registered thousands of potential multiracial donors since its founding in 2009. More recently, she teamed with film director Jeff Chiba Stearns to create Mixed Match, a 2016 documentary that follows patients and donors through the matching process. Asklipiadis does it all on top of a 9-to-5 at an accounting firm. “I’m not special or anything,” she says. “I’ve just been able to spread awareness via social media and word of mouth. There’s no limit to what you can do if you feel strongly enough about a cause—you just have to try.”


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