"Being able to play this type of role in someone else's life definitely changed me," Daniel Cox said. "Especially as a 19-year-old kid."
Cox, now 26, saw a segment with Robin Roberts on Be The Match in high school and decided to sign up for the bone marrow registry. Just three months later, he was matched to someone who would become a lifelong friend -- Missy Ginnetti.
"It was just very surreal for me," Cox said. "I think up until that point I knew what happened but when you put a face to the story and get to meet the person, it takes it to a whole different level."
Ginnetti's husband, Pat, had a similar recollection of that initial meeting.
"Those two clicked," Pat Ginnetti said. "They hit it off instantly. It's hard to even describe into words that first meeting ... we were meeting someone for the first time, but he wasn't a stranger."
Cox's transplant saved Missy's life -- she became cancer-free -- but died in 2016 from a blood clot.
Now, four years later, Cox and Pat Ginnetti are keeping Missy's legacy alive by continuing to raise money for Be The Match.
"We learned what Be The Match was by default," Pat Ginnetti said. "We didn't learn what it was until it was her only option. All that they did for her and all that Daniel did, I thought it was important to keep doing it. If we can get to somebody maybe a little bit sooner."
Cox is following through now on something he told himself when Missy Ginnetti died.
"Whenever I first met Missy, I was training for my first triathlon," Cox said. "I decided to raise money for Be The Match and dedicate that to her cure. Missy's family was there at the finish line. It was really, really amazing. Whenever she passed away, I think one of my first thoughts was I'm going to do the full one now."
Cox will complete his Ironman on a 140-mile long course, swimming 2.4 miles at Falls Lake, biking 112 miles and finishing with a marathon into downtown Durham. Pat will be there cheering him on.
"The importance of it comes from what we're doing with Be The Match," Cox said. "When the COVID thing happened, people who have blood diseases and blood cancers, they are getting hit hard for COVID as well. They are more susceptible and also finances for them are even more difficult just because of what COVID has done to people's jobs and things like that. It's really important for me to be able to assist these patients as much as I can. All the money raised goes directly to patient-assistant funds."
Nothing will bring Missy back but knowing there are numerous people who care is a comfort to her family.
"It's hard to discuss losing somebody," Pat Ginnetti said. "The support we've received, my family, Daniel, even Missy prior to her passing from Be The Match, it helps you heal even though there's still a spot missing. It still helps."
Cox has raised almost $75,000 but his goal is $100,000. If you'd like to help, you can donate here.