Organ Donor Day breaks record number of sign-ups

This article was published at TheWhitOnline.com on April 28, 2013.

Students agreed to give more than a helping hand when they signed up to become organ donors on Rowan’s 20th annual Organ Donor Day.

Hosted by the Public Relations Student Society of America on Thursday, April 25 on the Student Center Back Patio, this year’s Organ Donor Day aimed to educate the student body on the impact that organ donations can have. With the theme “give more than a helping hand,” the event gave students the facts about organ donation, let them listen to speakers and gave them the chance to sign up to become organ donors.

The 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. event offered live music, food, raffles, games and guest speakers who have all been a part of organ donations. Last year’s goal was to get 30 students to sign up to become organ donors. This year the goal was 50, and it was exceeded, with 55 students registering.

“Each year we strive to make a bigger event and have more people sign up to be an organ donor — because of course that’s the most important part — for someone to sign up to be an organ donor and to gain awareness to the people who aren’t organ donors and get to know the facts and debunk the myths,” said Ashley-Marie Monica, a senior public relations major and director of entertainment for Organ Donor Day. “We also like to celebrate the people that are already organ donors because it’s the gift of life.”

Following the outdoor event was a dodgeball game that took place from 3 to 5 p.m. at the REC Center. At $25 per team, seven teams signed up to participate. The proceeds came to over $1,000, and went to the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia, a “home” where families of transplant patients receiving medical care can stay for $40 a night, instead of lodging at a costly hotel.

The Gift of Life Family House is a part of the Gift of Life Donor Program, which is the nonprofit organ and tissue donation procurement organization that caters to the eastern half of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.

The idea for Organ Donor Day started 21 years ago when Professor Anthony J. Fulginiti, Rowan’s PRSSA chapter founder, received a life-saving kidney transplant from his sister. The next year, a student started Organ Donor Day to honor him and the gift of life that is organ donations.

For the past 20 years, Organ Donor Day has strived to show students the benefits of becoming an organ donor.

One of the 55 sign-ups on this year’s Organ Donor Day was David Fajerman, a sophomore law and justice major.

“The thought of donating organs is scary, like getting stuff cut out of you, but you’re not going to feel it,” Fajerman said. “When you’re signing up for your license, it’s not like this [the event] at all. It’s just a yes or no. But [this year’s Organ Donor Day], they put so much work into all of this, makes it worth it.”

Junior public relations and advertising major and the Organ Donor Day Host Chair Stephanie Russo became an organ donor last year after being involved with the event.

“It’s really great to be an organ donor every day,” Russo said. “It’s a beautiful gift to give and just knowing these people and hearing their stories. I’m excited for everyone else to hear them. I’ve heard them myself and hearing them, it’s awe-inspiring. How can you not sign up and give this gift? It’s amazing. That’s why we have ‘give more than a helping hand.’ It’s more than just being there, it’s actually committing it.”

Among the speakers were Patrick Manion and his mother Cass Manion. Patrick’s sister and Cass’ daughter, Michelle Manion, passed away in September. Michelle was a total body donor. That means she agreed to donate her eyes, brain stem, heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, bone marrow and blood upon her death.

“It’s rare that you can have a donor with a family that’s willing to do that, but it was her wishes,” Cass Manion said. “Three weeks before [my daughter] died, she said, ‘If anything happens to me, I want my whole body to be donated.’ So her brain stem went to Harvard for brain research.”

Cass and Patrick Manion call Michelle Manion their hero for giving the gift of life to people in need of a transplant.

“It’s comforting to know that she lives on in other people and that’s hundreds of other people who are thankful that they received that donation,” Patrick Manion said.

Another speaker was Rowan student Andrew Lysy, a sophomore health promotion and fitness management major and a recipient of a tissue donation. Lysy, who is a pitcher for the Rowan baseball team, blew his elbow out and received his donation.

“You don’t really understand it until it actually happens to you,” Lysy said. “I’m just thankful that I get another shot. I mean, it’s unfortunate that somebody passed away, but at the same time, I’m very grateful that I get to play in the sport that I love again.”

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