In August 2001, Jillian Black received a gift that saved her life: a new heart.
Having suffered from congenital heart disease for 20 years, and now, having overcome it, Black is on a mission to make others aware of the importance of organ and tissue donation.
“I am an advocate for organ and tissue awareness because someone’s knowledge about organ donation is the reason that I am alive,” Black said.
In 1997, a small group of University of Central Florida students teamed up with their local donor group to create Get Carded, an organ and tissue donation awareness program. By 2001, in conjunction with the LifeLink Foundation and The Florida Coalition on Donation, USF’s Student Government developed its own branch of Get Carded. Black, director of Get Carded, said she would like to see more people, even those not associated with Student Government, involved with the program.
“Personally, I would like to see the Get Carded program become so popular that everyone on campus has an idea of why the program exists,” Black said. “The main objective of Get Carded is to get students, faculty, and staff to adopt the Get Carded effort and continue spreading the word about donation.”
Last year, more than 11,000 students and faculty members were recruited as organ donors through the Get Carded campaign.
So far this year, Get Carded has concentrated on distributing information during Greek rush week. Now, in an effort to get more of the student body involved, it is sponsoring a contest for a new logo. The art must incorporate the words “Get Carded” and “USF.” Entries must be submitted to Black or to the SG office by Sept. 30.
“Top prize receives a cash prize of $50, in addition to the art and slogan being used as the icon for Get Carded,” Black said.
Another local event recognizing the importance of organ donation is the third annual 5K Race For Sight, sponsored by the Central Florida Lions Eye & Tissue Bank, an organization which mainly concentrates on sight restoration. The race will take place in Ybor City on Oct. 4.
Aside from creating awareness about organ donation, both organizations aim to educate the public about donating.
Christy Gore, program coordinator of the Central Florida Lions Eye & Tissue Bank, said that most people don’t know the value of their donated eyes, no matter their condition.
“People with eye diseases think that they can’t donate, but they can provide tissue that can be used for research,” Gore said. “There is always research going on trying to find new medications and treatments — possibly cures to some of these diseases — and infected eyes are very valuable.”
According to the LifeLink Foundation, a transplant organization, many internal organs can be transplanted, regardless of cause of death, provided the donor does not have a communicable disease such as HIV.
While there are many ways for students to become organ and tissue donors — including filling out donor cards or specifying their preference on driver’s licenses — Black said the most important step they can take is making their willingness to donate known.
“Even if an individual has a donor card, the most important thing for the individual to do is to tell his or her family of his or her wishes, because in the event that an individual has the potential to become an organ donor, his or her family will be consulted and will decide,” Black said.
Currently, Black is concentrating on organizing a committee that would be responsible for planning events and promoting the Get Carded campaign, as well as providing a foundation for the future.
“I would like to see a strong and solid committee so that when it is time for me to leave USF, a new director will be placed and the committee will carry out the program,” Black said. “I would like to come back in several years and see a massive Get Carded program.”