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Jets, Community Respond to 'Match for Michael'

Posted May 1, 2012

Updated, 1:35 p.m. ET

It all came together like clockwork, like a defensive game plan being assembled in less than one week's time.

And the Match For Michael fundraiser and bone-marrow-donor quest for Jets fan Michael Manganiello has been a success, but only as far as it has gone tonight at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Eatontown, N.J.

"The fundraising is great. It's going to raise funds for the family," said Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the co-host of this mission of urgency for Manganiello, who is suffering from acute myelofibrosis. "The idea is to get as many people here as possible to get a swab and get a match. Tonight is just a credit to the people who worked so hard with us. Nobody said no."

And that included a cast of bright Green & White lights. Also on hand to help with the effort tonight were head coach Rex Ryan, quarterback Mark Sanchez, defensive tackle Sione Pouha, linebacker Aaron Maybin, voice of the Jets Bob Wischusen, Fireman Ed Anzalone and many others.

"Everybody knows what I think of Mike. Two guys I had to hire when I got to the Jets were Mike Pettine and Dennis Thurman," said Ryan in between signing autographs and posing for photos with the 500-plus Jets fans, potential marrow donors and well-wishers in attendance. "Mike very rarely asks for things, but this event is very near and dear to his heart. It was way too easy to come out and do the right thing."

"This is huge. Anything we can do to use our position as public figures, if it helps someone out, this is bigger than playing football," said Sanchez. "If you have a late-night question that has to do with football or life, 'Coach Pet' is there for you. And tonight we're there for him."

And for Michael. Pettine said everything was seemingly normal for Manganiello, the husband and father of three near the Jersey shore whose family is close to the Pettines. Then he began feeling fatigued, so he went to a local hospital. He was quickly sent to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

"The first day he was told it was cancer. The second day he was told he had leukemia. The third day he was told it was worse — a rare bone marrow disorder," Pettine said. "He got chemotherapy and there were some encouraging signs from that, but it's still touch-and-go. But he's in great spirits. He wants to fight it, and one reason he wants to fight it is just from the overwhelming response from the community."

Part of that community wears green and white to work.

"The Jets organization is more than just a football team," Pouha said. "We feel that we're well-rounded, we care about the community. And this shows me that we're much more than a team. We're a family."

"Coach Pettine is really hands-on, and getting everybody involved in this, it's clear he felt really passionate about it," said Maybin. "We're all excited to come out and show our support."

The Jets' representation and the corresponding turnout by Jets fans and Manganiello's friends, neighbors and supporters didn't surprise Wischusen, a long-time New Jersey resident.

"When the Jets were making the move over here from Long Island, I told people, 'You will see a very clear presence in the community with this team,' " said "Shoes." "Tonight is a perfect example of that."

More than 300 who came for the event registered for the National Marrow Donor Program directory. The Manganiello family and the NMDP are still accepting donations via PayPal. All proceeds will be split between NMDP and the family. For more information on the National Marrow Donor Program, go to the NMDP Website, and more donation information can be found at MatchForMichael.com.
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