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Eagle Scout Candidate Puts Heart Into Organ Donor Project

Carpinteria's Johnathan Baird uses his service project to raise awareness about the need for lifesaving donations

Editor’s note: Johnathan Baird, 15, of Carpinteria, is an Eagle Scout candidate in Boy Scout Troop 50 of Los Padres Council of the Boy Scouts of America. His service project is designed to raise awareness about the need for organ, eye and tissue donors in California. The following is the text of a speech he presented to the Carpinteria City Council on April 13 urging the council to accept a proclamation from the mayor declaring April as DMV/Donate Life California Month.

What if you, your child or your spouse got sick and were dying, and the only hope for survival was receiving an organ transplant? What if there weren’t any organs available? Nearly 100,000 men, women and children in America are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Unfortunately, about 18 people die each day due to a lack of available organs.

My name is Johnathan Baird, and I am an Eagle Scout candidate in the Boy Scouts of America Troop 50 in Carpinteria. I am working on my Eagle Scout Service Project to raise awareness about the urgent need for organ, eye and tissue donation in California. To fulfill one aspect of this campaign, I have asked Carpinteria Mayor Gregg Carty to declare April as DMV/National Donate Life Month in Carpinteria.

My motivation for this project came from my cousin, Natalie, who at age 12 suffered liver failure and was hospitalized for three months. After all avenues of medical treatment options were exhausted, she was placed on the organ transplant waiting list. She and her family desperately waited for a liver to become available. Tragically, a young boy died as a result of an accident. Luckily, his family chose to donate his organs to save the lives of others. His liver saved two lives: Natalie’s and an infant at the same hospital. My cousin is now 14 years old and doing all the activities normal kids do, and feeling great. It was after her life was saved by her donor’s generosity, that I realized the importance of organ donation.

For my Eagle Scout Service Project, I hope to sign up at least 100 people as organ, eye and tissue donors. By providing information on the benefits of and the process involved in donating, I hope to dispel common myths and fears people may have that would prevent them from becoming organ donors.

As a donor, you can save and enhance the lives of more than 50 people. The organs and tissue that can be donated include the heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, bones, corneas, heart valves, skin, tendons and veins. Your age and medical condition shouldn’t deter you from signing up. There is no cost for the donor or his or her family and it doesn’t alter funeral arrangements. You also may donate lifesaving organs while you are alive. Be a living kidney or partial liver, lung, intestine or pancreas donor. One of the easiest things you can donate several times a year is whole blood or platelets.

To get the word out into the community, I plan to speak at several service organization meetings from Carpinteria to Goleta, hoping to persuade individuals to sign up as donors. I also will contact some of the major local companies in town to get them involved by allowing me to hand out informational packets to their employees. In June, there will be an informational public event at Carpinteria Community Church to sign up individuals as well.

If you are interested in signing up, here is information you should know. Donate Life California is a nonprofit Organ and Tissue Donor Registry dedicated to saving the lives of thousands of Californians awaiting lifesaving transplants. According to the Donate Life California Web site:

» Right now, more than 21,000 Californians are waiting for an organ transplant. That’s 21 percent of the more than 100,000 people waiting across our country. Tragically, one-third of them will die while waiting.

» Before 2004, no registry had existed for those who wished to give consent to be an organ and/or tissue donor. Historically, while signing a donor card and placing the pink dot on your driver’s license served as an important symbol of your intent, it did not place you on any list or registry.

» Now, Donate Life California allows you to express your commitment to becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor. The registry guarantees your plans will be carried out when you die.

» Since July 1, 2006, individuals who renew or apply for a driver’s license or ID with the DMV now have the opportunity to also register their decision to be a donor in the Donate Life California Registry, and the pink “DONOR” dot symbol is pre-printed on the applicant’s driver license or ID card.

You have the power to donate life. Sign up today at www.donatelifecalifornia.org to become an organ and tissue donor. Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through tissue donation.

If I have compelled anyone to sign up through my awareness campaign, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or please contact me if your business would like to take part in a Donate Life Workplace Campaign. I am keeping a tally and hope to reach my goal of 100 donors.

I also would like to issue a challenge to those already registered organ donors to help me spread the word and help recruit at least one more donor. You could be a lifesaver giving someone a second chance at life. Or the life saved could be your own or the life of a loved one if you ever are put in the situation of needing a transplant.

— Johnathan Baird, 15, is an Eagle Scout candidate in Boy Scout Troop 50 in Carpinteria.

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