Groups team up to raise awareness

PARKERSBURG – As a way to raise awareness of the need for organ donors, two organizations have teamed up with Wendy’s restaurants throughout West Virginia.

To celebrate April as National Donate Life Month, The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) has joined with Donate Life West Virginia to encourage West Virginians to register as organ, tissue and cornea donors.

“We are pleased to celebrate National Donate Life Month and are especially proud to join Donate Life West Virginia and Wendy’s to honor families who have saved lives through the gift of organ, tissue and cornea donation,” said CORE president and CEO Susan Stuart. “The urgent need for transplants far exceeds the number of organs, tissues and corneas that are donated.”

According to Donate Life, more than 120,000 Americans are waiting for organ and/or tissue transplants with more than 800 of them being West Virginians.

Of those on the transplant list, roughly 100,000 are waiting for a kidney. Unfortunately, more than 18 people die every day waiting for a healthy organ.

One organ and tissue donor has the ability to save and enhance the lives of more than 50 people after death with the donation of their organs, including heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas as well as tissues that include bones, corneas, heart valves, skin, tendons and veins.

As part of the month-long program, on Thursday, the awareness and fundraising campaign kicked off at the Wendy’s restaurant on Main Street in Ripley. The event included remarks by restaurant manager and donor mother Lisa Johnson whose daughter Nicole’s lifesaving gifts have helped others.

Nicole Johnson died at the age of 26 on Sept. 16, 2012, and as an organ, tissue and cornea donor continues to live through those she helped, according to her mother.

She has written letters to the recipients of Nicole’s gifts, and recently connected with the recipient of Nicole’s liver.

The campaign to encourage West Virginians to register to be an organ and tissue donor will take place in 56 Wendy’s locations throughout the area. Local locations include those in Belpre and Marietta, Ohio; all in Parkersburg, Ripley, Ravenswood, St. Marys and Vienna.

The next event will be today, which is National Blue and Green Day, a national initiative to get people talking about organ donation and why it is important. Participants are encouraged to wear green and blue clothing to show their support.

From 4 to 8 p.m. April 24, 10 percent of all sales from the participating Wendy’s restaurants will benefit Donate Life West Virginia donor awareness programs and donor family resources.

One of the goals of the campaign is to encourage people to register as a donor at the Donate Life website (www.donatelifewv.org).

“One of our goals is to help people understand the importance of becoming an organ, tissue and cornea donor,” Stuart said. “Registering only takes about 30 seconds, but it can make the difference of a lifetime.”