On Thursday, February 18th, the Ultimate Gift of Life celebrated two years of success and thanked local volunteers for all their help in making it happen. Since its inception in January of 2014, the local non-profit has reached over 6,025 people with information about organ donation. A total of 2,018 new donors have been registered and over 1,950 have been confirmed.
With over 121,000 individuals across the country waiting for an organ donation, education is being provided that will help everyone make an informed choice about registering as a donor. In Kerr County, we have seen the percentage of donors rise from 29.1% to 47.86%! In Gillespie, we have increased from 28.5% to 46.5%. However, across the State of Texas, the overall percentage of individuals registered is still at less than 31%! We have a long way to go to get everyone information and registered.
The luncheon at Rails – a Café at the Depot was a perfect opportunity to thank the volunteers from across the Texas Hill Country for their many hours of service. During this past year, 42 volunteers gave over 880 hours of service providing presentations and staffing exhibit booths. “All of our efforts would not be possible without the amazing volunteers who helped us with 75+ events this year”, stated Kristy Vandenberg, Executive Director.
“We also want to thank our partners who make this all possible! We are grateful to be supported by Peterson Regional Medical Center, Dr. Cynthia McNeeley, the Johnson City Clinic, The Hal & Charlie Peterson Foundation, James Avery Craftsman, Encore Radio, Hill Country Portal and so many more coordinators of special events throughout the Texas Hill Country.” Vandenberg has also traveled throughout central Texas speaking to local Rotary Clubs about organ donation and registering their members.
“Volunteers staff our booth at events. They are equipped with an iPad and ask people if they are an organ donor. If the reply is yes, they ask to confirm the registration. If the reply is no, they offer information about organ donation and if the person would like to register, then they assist in the registration. Anyone who allows us to confirm or register them, receives a free Ultimate Gift of Life t-shirt.”
We also have volunteers that share their personal story on the importance of organ donation:
- Mary Krebs from Fredericksburg shares how the loss of her son has blessed the lives of those who received his donation.
- Lari Blevins from Kerrville wants to thank the family in San Antonio whose son gave him a lifesaving heart.
- Pat Mossman from Kerrville is telling his story of being a living donor and giving his brother-in-law a kidney.
- Janet Bacon Everett from Kerrville is one of the longest living double lung transplants – and she also received a kidney!
- Wendy Holt from Harper gave her son a kidney and now her daughter is planning on a “transplant exchange” this summer for another kidney for her son and the donation of one by her daughter.
- Dorcella Sunday from Fredericksburg suffers from Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKSD) and received a lifesaving kidney from her sister. Unfortunately both of her sons are currently on the transplant waiting list for kidneys.
- Brenda Lee from Kerrville just celebrated her first anniversary of her heart transplant!
- Wally Freeman has received a double cornea transplant – a great gift for this local historian who gives so much to the Hill Country community.
- Niki Pillatzke from Ingram received a new liver when she was 6 months old. She is now in Middle School as a healthy 13 year old.
- Susan Junkers from Bandera received a kidney from her husband and talks about the impact that 3 days per week dialysis had on her life.
- Kelli Griffith shares how grateful she is that her father received a heart transplant!
- Kent Bressler from Kerrville and PRMC is celebrating his 29th year with the gift of a kidney transplant from his brother. He works both locally and across the US as an advocate for securing living donors for kidneys.
- Melinda Birck from Harper is thankful every day for the gift of a liver!
- Ross Bigelow & his wife Elaine, from Fredericksburg share their story of his heart transplant, working in the local area and San Antonio through the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance.
- Elda Perez is a liver and kidney transplant recipient. She shares her story beautifully!
- Julie Wood just joined our corps of volunteers. She has just come forward, willing to share her personal story of the loss of her 18 month old daughter, and how she lives on in other children.
- Katy Huth Jones is the recipient of a cornea transplant. As a writer, this gift of vision is so important to her profession!
- Kevin McCalla from Center Point received a kidney which involved his sister’s donation in a tri-state transplant exchange!
This is just a sample of the amazing volunteers that help The Ultimate Gift of Life here in Texas! There are many more of your neighbors impacted, as we collect new stories every day. And there are hundreds of our friends who spend 15-20 hours per week on a dialysis machine – seriously impacting their quality of life. Organ donation knows no age limit or ethnicity. The oldest donor in Texas was approximately 100 years old.
March is National Kidney Donor Month. Approximately 83% of the individuals on the waiting list are in need of a kidney. That translates into over 100,000 people waiting! The average wait time is 4 years and an average of 22 people die each day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. March is also National Eye Donor Month. The gift of sight is so precious.
One donor has the potential to save and improve 2 people’s lives waiting for a kidney transplant, in addition to 6 more people with other organs and over 50+ people with tissue. A kidney can be donated from a living donor. The Ultimate Gift of Life has an active website at www.theultimategiftoflife.com and also a busy Facebook page for additional information on organ donation and upcoming events.
Again, we recognize and thank our partners and volunteers who make it possible to share this message. Please remember that you can “Turn a Time of Loss into a Time of Hope.”