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Ravens-Steelers coaches join forces for a cause

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Posted at 11:56 PM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 07:24:09-04

Three Super Bowl-winning head coaches joined together Thursday night to celebrate blood cancer survivors and bring awareness to the need for more bone marrow donors.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, former Ravens head coach Brian Billick, and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin were among the guests at "A Night of Heroes: Champions and Survivors," an event by the There Goes My Hero foundation. 

"There's not too many things that can bring Ravens and Steelers together but this is one that's well worth it," said Governor Larry Hogan.

As a cancer survivor, Hogan said he understands the magnitude of the bone marrow registry.

"This bone marrow registry is so important, people need it, we don't have enough of it. A lot of people donate blood but they don't think about the possibility of bone marrow transplants. I am somebody who understands it and I've met so many patients that were fighting tougher battles than my own and that's what inspired me, I'm going to stay involved in causes like this," Hogan said.

Even though the night was about charity, the Ravens-Steelers rivalry was still very much in tact. 

"We can use that rivalry and the intensity of it in a positive manner tonight, what an awesome feeling," said Tomlin. 

Former Ravens player James Trapp was an honoree. Trapp was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and is now cancer-free. 

"Cancer is a free agent. It came into my life, without warning, but my team we got around and we made him cooperate, you know? He left, he's a free agent now but I still have to stand here and fight the cause for everyone," Trapp said. 

His message to anyone else diagnosed is to not shy away from the battle. "Get ready for a fight, absorb it, don't push it off. Don't wish it away, absorb it make yourself stronger, you can beat cancer. It's inside of you, you kick it out," he said. 

And while crowds gathered around to meet with the coaches, Harbaugh said the real heroes are the doctors who help patients fight their diagnosis.

"We're football coaches. And if you've got people in the hospitals in this city who do the things they do and make miracles happen and save lives, those are the real heroes to me," Harbaugh said.

And a number of people can be a hero to someone suffering from a life-threatening the disease. The first step is registering to be a bone marrow donor.

According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, approximately 30 percent of patients in need of a stem cell donor find a match within their families. The remaining 70 percent rely on a worldwide database of people that could potentially be a "miracle match." To increase the odds of that happening, more people need to sign-up for the registry. All it requires is some paperwork, a sip of water, and a 30-second swab of each cheek.

If you're a match you'll get a call and then you could help someone else. Someone like Jennifer Aparicio, a leukemia survivor.

"Mine was in Germany, a 21-year-old man, stepped up twice to save my life," said Aparicio.

It's a relatively painless procedure that could the cure for people battling certain cancers.

"To save somebody's life it could be as simple as drawing blood," Aparicio said. 

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