Donate Life Ohio trying to raise donors by 48,000

Brittany Thoma

Nearly 2,500 Ohioans are waiting on heroes. This is how many people are on the waiting list for organ and tissue donation, according to Statistically, one Ohioan dies every other day while waiting for a transplant.

Associate professor Michele Ewing’s Public Relations Campaigns class is striving to minimize those numbers. The students are working for client Donate Life Ohio to raise the number of organ donors in Geauga, Cuyahoga and Portage counties by nearly 48,000.


Learning about the need for organ donation inspired two students in the class to become donors. Both students registered online.

“I didn’t even know you could register online,” Eric Wagner said. “You sit at the BMV and on a moment’s notice are asked if you would like to be an organ donor. Honestly, that’s something

I need a little more time to think about.”

The class also changed Abby Laner’s outlook on organ donation.

“I was 16 at the BMV and was freaked out when they asked me if I wanted to donate my organs,” Laner said. “But then I learned more about it. You can save up to 50 people.”

Each semester the campaigns class is assigned a client and a problem to solve using skills the students have accumulated throughout their college careers. The class, made up entirely of senior public relations majors, is then split into teams to resolve the problem through a campaign competition. At the end of the semester, each team presents its campaign to a panel of judges and one team is deemed the winner.

This semester’s class got an added twist. The campaign plans they come up with will be executed by a implementation team spring semester in a state-wide organ donation competition called Do It Now!

This is the first semester the class’s plans are to be implemented.

“This is more than just a client. Our work will be implemented and we will make a difference. This will save lives,” said campaigns student Anastasia Duller.

Melody Wachowski said campaigns is where students apply the skills learned in the PR sequence.

“It’s reality,” she said. “We came in here, we created an agency and competed for clients just like the real world.”

One goal. Two teams. Two directions.

Both teams said the their target audience is 18- to 24-year-olds – the Internet savvy generation.

With this in mind, one of the two teams, Prime Communications, carried out an online tactic through Facebook, creating a cause application called Organ Donation: Donate Life Ohio.

“It’s free and we wanted to utilize social media through their already existing Facebook profiles,” Wachowski said.

Prime Communications didn’t just choose this age group to use Facebook.

“Our research showed that college-aged people are more receptive to organ donation,” Christina Stafford said, “because the older audiences are kind of stuck in their ways.”

Prolific PR, the second team, also targeted 18- to 24-year-olds, especially the on-campus crowd.

They implemented a campus tactic by setting up a booth for organ donation registration at two basketball games.

“We thought we wanted to target Kent State students because they’re right at our fingertips,” Abby Laner said. “This is a group that we can reach quickly and effectively.”

After the presentations, the entire audience along with the class was invited to Ray’s Place where the winner, Prime Communications, was announced.

In the spring semester, an implementation team will compete with 13 other Ohio colleges and universities in the state-wide competition.

Ewing said it’s great to see the class participate in such meaningful but challenging PR work.

“They’re being asked to motivate a behavior. It’s a tremendous challenge in a short time frame on a sensitive topic,” Ewing said. “But the students are rising to the challenge.”

Contact College of

Communications and Information reporter Brittany Thoma

at [email protected]