Organ donation drive at IVCC looks to boost registration

Gift of Hope aims to increase enrollment 5% statewide

Are you an organ donor? More than half of Illinois residents are, but Melinda Asher (left) and Gina Martin (right), both from Gift of Hope, appeared Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at IVCC trying to boost enrollment north of 60%.

Ever thought about registering to be an organ donor?

It’s a difficult question, to be sure, but it’s an important one. A little more than half of Illinois residents are in the organ donor registry and La Salle County Coroner Rich Ploch thinks that figure could be, and should be, much higher – not least because organ and tissue donations help many bereaved families manage their grief.

With organ donation up to eight lives can be saved. With tissue donations, up to 20 lives can be enhanced

—  Gina Martin, partner relations for Gift of Hope

“I’ve had a lot of such discussions with bereaved families, knowing their loved one lives on in someone else,” Ploch said.

Ploch and two workers from the Gift of Hope set up a table Tuesday at Illinois Valley Community College hoping to spur young people to think about registering to be an organ donor. It’s part of a larger campaign to boost statewide registration from 57% to 62% over the next month.

“With organ donation up to eight lives can be saved,” said Gina Martin, partner relations for the Gift of Hope. “With tissue donations, up to 20 lives can be enhanced. We know it can be a hard decision, so it’s really important to tell your family about that decision.”

Illinois has a commendable legacy of spurring organ donations. Before his death in 1999, former Bear star Walter Payton disclosed his fight with a form of liver cancer and inspired fans to become organ donors. Longtime Secretary of State Jesse White also championed donations and facilitated the process of becoming a donor.

However, the novel coronavirus pandemic cut down on visits to the Secretary of State’s Office and left the organ donation registry in need of a boost.

This April, Gift of Hope is mounting a statewide campaign to lift signups by about 5%, or about 25,000 new donors. Debbie DeVito, supervisor of partner relations for the Gift of Hope, thinks that figure is achievable and aims to someday hit 72% enrollment.

“That’s my dream for the next few years,” DeVito said. “I believe if there’s enough people who understand the facts about donation, then it’s attainable.”