Want to help this 9-year-old girl fight leukemia? All you have to do is spit

Who knew a little bit of saliva could go such a long way?

Riley Furlong was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2016. Since then, she’s been going through chemotherapy, but now she has to begin preparing for the next stage: a bone marrow transplant. And that’s where she’ll need some help from others. But she’s not asking for money—she just wants people to spit!

This 9-year-old Texan has started a campaign called “Spit For Riley,” which asks people to give up a little spit in order to see if they’re eligible to be a donor for someone in need.


All you have to do is sign up on The National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match website. Then, you’ll be sent a kit and asked to swab the inside of your mouth. Your information will then be entered into a database where you could be called upon to donate marrow if you’re a match for someone in need. Anyone ages 18 to 44 can sign up, barring some questions about their medical history, and your information stays on file until you’re 61, according to the program’s website.

Riley and her father, Bill Furlong, filmed a video as a call to action and to explain how simple the process really is.

She opens the video with a powerful statement: “I’m here to ask you for your help fighting cancer. I’m not asking for your time or your money. I’m asking for your spit.”

She also explains that one out of every 500 people in the database are actually called upon to donate. Finding a match can be a difficult process. Sam Hillhouse, a representative for Be The Match, recently explained why on NBC’s “Today.”

“You match based on your HLA [human leukocyte antigen] type,” Hillhouse said. “It’s a protein on most cells and the diversity there is enormous. It is really like finding a needle in the haystack.”

Thus the more people who spit, the better the odds are for someone fighting cancer to get a match. According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, 17,500 people are diagnosed with illnesses where a bone marrow transplant could save their life each year in America. And according to the Institute for Justice, only 30 percent of patients have a matching donor in their family—which leaves the rest to hope for another donor.


Even though this is heavy subject matter for little Riley, the girl didn’t hesitate to make the video after her father suggested it.

“My dad asked me if I wanted to make a video on bone marrow transplants and I said ‘Sure,'” she told Austin’s KEYE-TV. And that’s likely because she knew this wasn’t just about her. “It’s not just for me to get bone marrow, it’s for the millions of people who have blood cancer.”

She and her dad actually had a lot of fun filming the video. “I actually enjoyed it very much. It was really fun because some of the mistakes sounded pretty funny,” she told “Today.” Apparently, it took about 20 takes for her to nail the delivery for the video—with plenty of laughs in between. Lucky for us, they even included a few of the adorable bloopers in the video if you watch until the end!

According to “Today,” there’s been some good news for the Furlong family. Turns out, Riley’s sister Anabella will be a good match for her bone marrow transplant. But, again, the girl reiterated that “#SpitForRiley” isn’t just about finding a match for her.

“This is really a pay-it-forward thing. It is not about getting folks to join the registry for Riley,” her dad told “Today.” “This is a moment where we can do something to give back and make the system work better.”

Viral videos surely have worked to raise awareness in the past. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of how some ice, a brave individual and a camera can work to cure Lou Gehrig’s disease (aka ALS).

Since being posted to YouTube and Facebook on Feb. 2, Riley’s video has been viewed more than 10,000 times, and her initiative is just starting to gain attention from the press.

All of this is helping her work toward her goal of getting 1,000 people to register by the end of February. So, don’t forget to spread the word, too! If you miss the February deadline, there’s still a chance to register with Be The Match using the code “spitforriley” until Dec. 2018.

What do you say? Want to help this little girl meet her goal and maybe save a life in the process? That sounds like a win-win!