This year, the Illinois State University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America is offering a new opportunity for its members. The Chapter is partnering with Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network to host an event in April designed to raise education and awareness on organ and tissue donation.
While attending PRSSA National Conference in Washington, I connected with the Gift of Hope, a member of the organization Donate Life Illinois. Donate Life Illinois is part of an alliance of organizations responsible for organ, tissue, eye, blood, and marrow donation, as well as donor education and registration in Illinois. As a part of the Donate Life America coalition, Donate Life Illinois is one of 45 regional coalitions and 50 national businesses/associations working to raise awareness, education, and donor numbers.
Donate Life Illinois has various member organizations beneath it, including Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network. This nonprofit is one of 50 organ procurement organizations that make up the nation’s donation system. It coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides public education on donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana. It works with 180 hospitals, serving 12 million people in its donation area. In its 29 years, Gift of Hope has saved the lives of more than 18,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands through tissue transplants.
After the Conference, I returned to ISU with one goal in mind: to bring Gift of Hope to ISU’s campus. Ten months ago, in the midst of tragedy, Gift of Hope brought light to a hurting community and family. If you are not familiar with the Michael Collins foundation, I encourage you to explore the website. A drunk driver tragically killed Collins, a senior at ISU, in April last year. Because Collins was an organ donor, his organs, eyes, and tissue impacted and saved 200 lives. His mother, Kelly, is able to share that Collins’ gift restored a blind woman’s sight in New York. Not only does this organization benefit people across the world, but it has made a huge impact right here in the Bloomington-Normal community.
For those receiving a donation, it is potentially lifesaving. For those who are donors, you are giving the most selfless and valued gift of all – the gift of life. And the Gift of Hope is just that, hope for a future for so many. There are currently 5,186 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant in Illinois.
The Rowan University Chapter of PRSSA has formed a competition between schools to participate in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition. This competition will fuel the planning of an event at ISU that will focus on educating students, raising awareness, and generating conversation about organ donation, all while taking in new donor registrants. A team of ISU PRSSA members will partner with Gift of Hope representatives and potentially other community and faculty sponsors to complete the day event. The PRSSA members will then compile a portfolio of their efforts, including research, strategic plans, budget, invitations, news releases, and a media kit. The portfolio will be sent to Rowan University PRSSA, and the winners will be announced at the Conference this fall. Grand prizes will be awarded to the top three Chapters. This competition is not only a great opportunity to gain experience, but also, more importantly, to make a difference.
By Ali Seys
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.