RecycleMe Operation Gets Fanshawe Students Buzzing
On March 22, 2010, Fanshawe College students were asked to consider the ultimate act of recycling - organ donation.
Carrie Hoto, Media Relations Advisor for Trillium Gift of Life Network, shows off promotional materials for RecycleMe.org in Forwell Hall.
For the past few months, Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) has been conducting a 'campus tour' of universities and colleges to raise awareness of the critical need for organ and tissue donors in Ontario.
The tour of postsecondary campuses in the south and central parts of the province is part of TGLN's RecycleMe.org campaign, a new advertising initiative aimed at students and youth ages 15-24.
"TGLN and the government realized that focusing on youth was critical, said Carrie Hoto, Media Relations Advisor for TGLN. "We know that organ and tissue donation is not on their minds, however, we also know that when asked, youth are very supportive and passionate about it."
The provocative new campaign is anchored by the website http://RecycleMe.org, which asks young people to consider the critical need for donors, and presents donation as the ultimate act of "recycling."
"Our RecycleMe.org is a very provocative campaign," said Hoto. "We worked with a youth advisory panel to develop RecycleMe.org and they wanted a lot of content and information available to them and presented in a very real and honest way. They told us that it was incredibly important to be edgy."
Fanshawe College student Trevor Warwick plays a life-size version of Milton Bradley's Operation game as TGLN's Keindo Kakulatombo looks on.
The highlight of the tour was a life-sized game of Operation, complete with Milton Bradley's signature buzzing sound. Students lined up in Forwell Hall to try their luck at setting time and accuracy records to win prizes. The reason for the game, Hoto said, is to lighten the mood to make it easier to chat about an important, but sensitive, subject.
"It's a pretty big deal, and I think that people should be more aware of it," said Jaynel White, a Fanshawe student whose father passed away in March 2007 while waiting for a heart transplant. "I don't think today's youth culture understands it. I don't even think today's older generation understand it. People should talk about organ donations more than they have been in the past couple of decades."
White, who was also at the event, agrees with Hoto about the potential of the youth demographic to boost organ donor numbers.
"It makes a huge difference. I mean, everyone wants to be a hero, right? You want to be that person that helps the world, or helps somebody else..."
White said her father was one of those people.
"The big thing for me is the fact that he was always the hero who wanted to save everyone else and was making sure everyone was OK before himself."
Instead of gaining the new heart he was waiting for, her father became an organ donor himself and gave his lungs, pancreas, kidneys, and eyes.
"It's very heroic," said White.
White told her story to students who stopped for information after playing Operation, while TGLN representatives handed out t-shirts and promotional items to passers-by. A computer kiosk featured the RecycleMe.org website and handouts were given to provide information and encourage organ and tissue donor registration.
According to Hoto, the Fanshawe stop was a success.
"The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," she said. "We have received tons of great feedback on our RecycleMe.org website. The campus tour, which is another element of our youth outreach, has also been an enormous success. At Fanshawe alone we had more than 40 students register their consent on site to be an organ donor. And at least another 45 students took registration forms home with them. Our RecycleMe.org Facebook page is also quite popular, with more than 3,500 fans!"
Trillium Gift of Life Network is a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario and is responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and supporting organ and tissue donation across Ontario and improving the system so that more lives can be saved.
According to TGLN, a single donor can save up to eight lives. For White, the impact reaches much further.
"It's not just the person getting the organs that's saved: it's their family and their friends and their loved ones... it's a chain reaction," she said. "When somebody's saved, you're not just saving one life, you're saving many lives from heartbreak, from grief."
In Ontario, people who wish to donate their organs should register their consent with the Ministry of Health. Signing a donor card is not always enough. People can register their consent when they renew or apply for their OHIP card, or by filling out a consent form and mailing it to the ministry of health. Consent forms are available for download online. The information is then kept on a ministry of health database that is available to doctors 24/7.
According to TGLN, almost 700 lives were saved last year because of 218 organ donations, an increase of 17 per cent from 2008.
Each of those, White believes, is a gift of more than vital organs.
"So many others are celebrating the fact that my dad gave their families life again and let them live that much longer than they could have before," she said. "He saved lives, and he saved families."
"That's a huge deal for me."