A donation of life
Published: Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Eighteen people will die today waiting for an organ transplant.
University at Buffalo students enrolled in the COM 441 Advanced Public Relations course are hosting a special carnival-themed event in the Student Union Wednesday, in hopes of changing this number.
“The goal is twofold,” said Karen Swierski, the course professor and executive director of the Western New York Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “The first is to create more awareness of the need for organ and tissue donation, and the second is to sign people up for the NYS Organ and Tissue Donation Registry.”
The students from the COM 441 class will be partnering with Upstate New York Transplant Services today in hosting the carnival, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Swierski, who has taught COM 441 for the past seven years, believes that having her students organize a real public relations campaign, where they have an actual budget, deadlines and a clearly defined goal, teaches them in a way that supersedes what they could learn in the classroom.
“[The students] get to experience what working in public relations in ‘the real world’ is like,” Swierski said. “It helps them define their career objectives more clearly.”
Danielle Keller, a Donate Life Education Coordinator for UNYTS, discussed with the students the importance of their assistance to her organization.
“I would like to encourage them to think about the waiting list that has over 106,000 people who need an organ,” Keller said. “And on the blood side, knowing that one out three people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their life reminds us all that blood donation is crucial.”
Keller also introduced the class to her daughter, Lexi, a young lady who was given a second chance at life because of an organ donation. Lexi was born with a congenital heart defect and has struggled with this life threatening condition since she was born.
Lexi was in a medically induced coma when her family finally got the news that they had been praying for – the doctors had found her a heart. She received the heart transplant in 2004, and woke up from her coma less than two weeks before her fifth birthday.
Now in fifth grade at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Sanborn, Lexi is a happy, healthy and vibrant example of the power of organ donation.
Inspired by stories about the thousands of people who are waiting for a transplant, Swierski’s students used their promotional skills learned in class to increase awareness about a worthwhile cause, and they have found that the experience has been truly rewarding.
Rebecca Hoy, a member of the campaign’s special events team, encourages all students to stop by the carnival.
“It’s a fun day we have planned for everyone,” Hoy said. “But while you’re having fun, you can also help a good cause. Who doesn’t love a bouncy castle?
The COM 441 course will try to persuade students to commit to organ donation through their slogan, “If I Only Had a Heart,” which Keller believes is an appropriate name for the campaign.
“I am so inspired by the work and dedication from Karen and her students,” Keller said. “It is so moving to see young people embracing our mission and helping to raise awareness. As a mom of a transplant recipient, I am personally touched by these campaigns.”