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Stars Danny Murphy and Bob Mills attend charity ball in memory of Mel

Match of the Day pundit and ex-England footballer Danny Murphy and talkSPORT presenter Bob Mills attended Mel’s Blue Moon Charity Ball, in West Yorkshire, to honour the life of a Melaine Farrell-Rhodes and raise awareness and vital funds for blood cancer charity DKMS.

Mel, from Morley, in Leeds, was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia at the age of eight and the condition developed into the blood disorder myelodysplasia anaemia, which often leads to cancer. Mel was advised that her best hope for survival was to receive a blood stem cell transplant. Every year, around 2,000 people in the UK are in need of a blood stem cell transplant.

L-R Nigel Gordon (DKMS), Danny Murphy, Michaella Farrell-Anderson, Fran Farrell-Anderson (Mel’s mum), Bob Mills and Sarah Gray (DKMS)

Owing to Mel’s mixed-race heritage (African-Caribbean and British) her search was more difficult. Patients from black, Asian or other minority backgrounds have just a 20% chance of finding the best possible matching stem cell donor, compared with 69% for white Northern Europeans.

After an extensive search a matching donor was found for Mel and early last year she received a blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor. Unfortunately, Mel experienced complications and passed away in March 2018.

Mel’s sister, Michaella Farrell-Anderson, who co-organised the ball said:

“Mel reminds me of a proverb she loved ‘The branches of one strong tree can hold the weight of 40,000 small birds.’ She was my little sister, but although she was unwell she was courageous and strong and supported all of us and we miss her dearly.

“We’re happy that Danny and Bob were able to join us in celebrating Mel’s life and would like to say a big thank you to everyone else who has supported us. We hope to continue working with DKMS, helping to fundraise and raise awareness of blood cancer and blood disorders in memory of Mel.”

L-R Michaella Farrell-Anderson, Bob Mills and Fran Farrell-Anderson (Mel’s mum)

DKMS has a growing register of over 500,000 donors but desperately need more if a match is to be found for everyone who needs one. Only one in three people with blood cancer (and in need of a transplant) will find a matching blood stem cell donor within their own family – 2 in 3 need to look outside of this.

Danny Murphy said:

“I was humbled to be a guest at Mel’s Ball but it was really difficult to comprehend that such a beautiful, loving woman could be taken away from her family far too soon. I hope I can encourage as many people as possible to take the relatively straightforward first steps to help other people with blood cancer. Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general health can become a potential lifesaver – all they need to do is register online with DKMS.”

Mel’s Blue Moon Ball was held at The View, Six Acres in Bradford, and funds raised will help to register new potential blood stem cell donors.

Mel’s mum, Fran Farrell-Anderson, who also co-organised the ball said:

“We set out to celebrate Mel’s life and continue her legacy. We sold out of all our tickets, and Mel’s Blue Moon Ball raised thousands of pounds for DKMS.

“We intend to help the charity to register more donors in West Yorkshire. Following the tremendous success, Michaella and I made a promise to each other that we’d make the ball an annual event. See you next year.”

If you are aged between 17-55 and in general good health, please register for your home swab kit online at dkms.org.uk.

You can help support the fight against blood cancer by making your mark this World Blood Cancer Day (28 May) and supporting the charity’s #WearItRed campaign – please visit www.dkms.org.uk/wbcd for further details.