Donate Life registers 7,429 new organ donors, only half way done

Amanda Hayes

Team competes with students from other colleges to win $5,000

The Kent State Donate Life team wants students to be heroes.

The group is working to recruit organ donors in the area as part of the Donate Life Ohio “Do It Now” campaign. The Do It Now campaign is a state-wide competition among colleges to recruit as many new organ donors as possible.

Team member Katelyn Luysterborg said the Do It Now campaign aims to help Ohio reach its 400,000 donor registration goal. Luysterborg said the team has reached 51 percent of its goal of 14,571 new donors from Portage, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties, registering 7,429 new donors since December.

The Do It Now campaign is especially relevant now, as April is national organ donation month. According to the Donate Life Ohio Web site, nearly 2,500 Ohioans are waiting for an organ transplant. Despite these statistics, the site says only half of Ohio residents are registered organ donors.

Brandi Neloms, junior public relations major, said organ donation is something with which she has had personal experience, which inspired her to join the campaign.

Neloms’ grandfather, John Neloms, was diagnosed with diabetes in his 30s after poor diet and lifestyle choices caused his kidneys to deteriorate rapidly. Doctors had to amputate both legs, start dialysis and add him to a transplant waiting list. After almost a year, Neloms died while waiting for a kidney.


• 98,903 national transplant waiting list candidates

• 77 people receive an organ transplant each day


• 2,500 Ohioans are waiting for a transplant


• 210 Ohioans died in 2007 waiting


• 35 percent licensed drivers/ ID holders are registered donors

• Every 12 minutes a name is added to the wait list

• 18 people die every day waiting for an organ

Neloms said her grandfather died of a brain aneurysm, so he was able to donate his functioning liver to a man in Michigan. Though her grandfather was not a registered organ donor, Neloms’ grandmother knew what her late husband would want.

So even though he died waiting for a donation, John Neloms was able to give the chance to someone else.

Neloms said her family receives a card from the liver recipient at every major holiday, thanking them for the gift of life and allowing him to spend the day with his family.

“My grandfather is a hero,” Neloms said. “He saved a life and he didn’t need a phone booth or red cape to do so. He is my Superman!”

The significance of each registered organ donor is immeasurable, Luysterborg said. Each person who decides to donate his or her organs and tissue can save up to eight lives and enhance up to 50, she said.

“Organ donation should be important to everyone because it saves lives, pure and simple,” Luysterborg said. “Also, no one knows what will happen in the future and you may be the one needing an organ. It’s one of the simplest ways to give back, so why not?”

Jackie Lloyd, another campaign team member, agrees that organ donation is a hugely important act, and also emphasized the importance of telling others about your decision. Letting your loved ones know you are an organ donor is extremely important to ensure your wishes are fulfilled, she said.

Encouraging others to join you in becoming an organ donor can also have a huge effect on the success of the Do It Now campaign. Students who register to become organ donors this semester will not only have the satisfaction of knowing they are potentially saving lives, Lloyd said, but will also be helping to win the Do It Now Ohio competition. Lloyd said the winning university will be awarded $5,000 by the student organization that oversaw the campaign.

Whether they register to donate at one of the Kent State campaign events, online at the Do It Now Web site, while renewing a license at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, or anywhere else, the Donate Life team hopes students choose to make this life-saving decision.

Lloyd said last semester’s PR Campaigns class created a tactical plan to help Donate Life Ohio meet its organ donor registration goal. Lloyd said Kent State’s Donate Life team is made up of seven public relations students, and the team was put together by public relations associate professors Bill Sledzik and assistant professor Michelle Ewing. According to the Donate Life Ohio Web site, there are 11 colleges competing in the campaign, including Kent State. The others are Miami University, Bowling Green, the University of Akron, Ohio State, Capital University, Youngstown State, Xavier University, the University of Dayton, the University of Cincinnati and Ohio University.

Each college was assigned several surrounding counties and a numeric goal for new donor registrations in those areas.

Lloyd said registering to become an organ donor is easy, and students can fill out a simple form that the team will mail in. Students can also register online at

“It’s the easiest way to give back to someone,” Luysterborg said. “Knowing that you can save someone’s life and be a hero is the best feeling.”

Contact student health reporter Amanda Hayes at [email protected].