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Student group spreads awareness, registers organ donors at event

When William McMahon was in the International Baccalaureate program at Pensacola High School, he dreamed of working for NASA.

That was until McMahon, who spent his days surfing and playing guitar, died at the age of 16 after a failed liver transplant.

His mother, Kim McMahon, who lobbies for United Network for Organ Sharing, a program that raises awareness for the importance of organ donations, brought her message Thursday to USF’s “Green Ribbon” event sponsored by the student organization, Get Carded USF.

“A personal victory would be for everybody in the U.S. to talk to their family about organ donation,” she said.

USF, which has participated in the event for 11 years, led five other Florida universities – University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of North Florida and University of West Florida – involved with Get Carded on the number of students who signed up at the event.

Forty-seven new donors registered, said Tami Mendelson, a junior double majoring in psychology and nursing and co-director of Get Carded USF.

Donating organs after death to patients in need is something few Americans are willing to do, Mendelson said.

In 2007, only about 8,000 of the more than 2.5 million individuals who died in the U.S. were organ donors, according to

The event, held at the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater, featured a DJ, free pizza, T-shirts and other incentives to encourage old and new organ donors to register online. Co-director of Get Carded USF, Mallory McLean, a senior majoring in sociology, said the registration process takes less than 10 minutes.

Judith Villegas, a sophomore majoring in criminology, signed up to be an organ donor for the second time at the event.

When she initially registered, Villegas’ parents talked her out of it for fear that doctors would not do everything to save her if she were in an accident.

But McLean said, “No one knows you’re an organ donor until you’re pronounced with brain death.”

For Villegas, putting aside her personal fear was worth fulfilling Kim’s dream.

“If I needed an organ, I’d hope someone would donate to me,” she said