Lyle's goodwill recognized with Award of Valor

By Melissa Proulx
On January 31, 2014

Former UNH track star Cam Lyle continues to show us that a good deed will never go unnoticed.

Lyle was awarded the NCAA Award of Valor on Jan. 19, an award that came nine months after his decision to donate bone marrow to a stranger in need. This small, but courageous, decision ended his college career on the university's track and field team and made Lyle a national hero.

"I was very honored to receive the award, because only a few have gotten it in the history of the NCAA, but I do not feel like I deserve it," Lyle said. "The only act of valor that was committed was done by a 28-year-old man, who fought the fight to see his daughter grow up, and to marry his beautiful fiancé. His story was already written, I was just meant to be a part of it."

The NCAA states the Award of Valor is given to "a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution who, when confronted with a situation involving personal danger, averted or minimized potential disaster by courageous action or noteworthy bravery."

Lyle was one of 19 individuals presented with an award at the NCAA Honors Celebration. Others honorees included Billy Mills, who was presented with The Theodore Roosevelt Award. Mills was a Native American who was able to win a scholarship to the University of Kansas, a move that allowed him to end up at the 1964 Olympics. Since then, Mills has co-founded a non-profit organization designed to help Native American youths. Jason Church, a former football player from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who lost his legs from the knee down after stepping on an improvised explosive device while deployed in Afghanistan, was given the Inspiration Award. 

UNH's track and field coach Jim Boulanger stood next to Lyle as he received the award.

"It was a wonderful and humbling experience as there were so many quality people honored," Boulanger said.

Lyle signed up for the National Marrow Donor Program during his sophomore year, after a few football players who were running a Be The Match station were able to convince him to consent to the simple cheek swap. Until the moment of truth, Lyle was a fierce athlete for the UNH track and field team, competing in many events including shot put, discus, and the hammer and weight throw.

"I decided to get swabbed when a football player ... said that we should take a few minutes to get our mouths swabbed to help a great cause," Lyle said. "I guess the rest is history. I didn't take really anything into consideration, I just did it."

Though donating bone marrow did take a minor toll on Lyle's body for a short period of time, there isn't one day that goes by where he has regretted his decision to end his track career early.

"After the procedure I was extremely sore, and couldn't do much for a couple of weeks," Lyle said. "Mentally, I was proud to be able to save a life and humbled by seeing how much support I had from my family, friends, teammates, coaches and, as it turned out, the entire country."

Since the surgery, Lyle has been an avid advocate for the National Marrow Donor Program. This past September, he was able to organize a benefit concert up in Gilford, N.H., at the Bank of America Pavilion. The concert was a huge success, according to Lyle, and only the first of many that he hopes to put together.

"Once you see the impact that donating can have on someone's life, you can't help but want to do it again, in any way that you can," he said. "Since I have already donated, the best way I can help is to build awareness of the program."

While promoting awareness, Lyle has heard countless inspirational stories similar to his and has been approached multiple times by those contemplating whether or not to put their name on the list. His advice is always the same.

"I say don't hesitate to join, or get involved with the Marrow Donor Program. If the day comes that you are a match, you'll never find another feeling quite like it. If not, then you can at least help by giving one more number in an incredible odds game," he said.

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