Yale’s chapter of the national organization Students for Organ Donation are working this week to rectify the national problem of organ and tissue donor shortages with posters, study breaks, and a drive pitting the residential colleges against each other in friendly competition.
This year’s event is the first for the national club, which was created in the summer of 2003 by Richard Ludlow ’07 and his brother, John Ludlow. Twenty-two universities participate in Students for Organ donation, and six other universities are hosting programs similar to Yale’s this week.
April is National Donate Life Month, and Wednesday was National Donate Life Day. Students for Organ Donation at Yale created an elaborate balloon display on Cross Campus with 362 colored balloons to illustrate the disparity between the number of people who need organs and the number of available donors — 308 green balloons to represent the number of people added to the organ donor waiting list over a three-day period and 58 red balloons representing the number of people who died in the same time period because they didn’t receive the organs they needed.
Residential colleges also hosted study breaks Wednesday night to provide sign-up opportunities and increase awareness of the cause. But according to Robert Stobaugh ’07, who serves as the national marketing director of Students for Organ Donation, the biggest event Wednesday was a day-long organ donor drive, in which several university chapters attempted to break a world record.
“We’re trying to break a record listed in the ‘Guinness Book’ by having the most organ donors sign up in an eight-hour period,” Stobaugh said. “We’re collaborating with six other chapters.”
The group hopes to reach more students by raising awareness about the week’s activities at the residential college level. Ludlow said most masters have been “very supportive” — they funded Wednesday’s study breaks and sent out e-mails to publicize the event, he said.
Group members said good-natured residential college rivalry may increase the success of the registration drive — the college with the highest percentage of students who sign up to become organ donors will receive a “Heart of Gold” award. The college with the second-highest percentage will receive a “Black Lung” award. During the week, representatives from each college will record the number of students who sign up to become organ donors during the study breaks and at tables set up in the dining halls each night.
Ludlow said the week has been a success so far. The groups focused on promotion the first few days of the week, he said, and will push for donor sign-ups Thursday and Friday.
Yale Students for Organ Donation was founded in February, and officers have been busily preparing for this week, Ludlow said. Next year, when the group has more lead time and possibly more resources, the week-long activities may be on a larger scale, he said.
“So far, we haven’t really seen what the results have been,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “Next year we’ll have more time to prepare, so it’ll hopefully be a little more elaborate. We hope to have a campaign that involves New Haven next year.”
But despite the intensity of the efforts within the colleges, Stobaugh said the issue of organ donation is more than a matter of signing a card.
“The organ donor shortage is an easy problem to fix, but people don’t tend to talk to their families about it,” he said. “The most important things is letting your parents know you wish to be an organ donor. A lot of potential organ donors are lost because families are upset [at the time of death].”
Stobaugh said the group is trying to remedy this problem by emphasizing the active role each potential donor should take in the issue.
“We’re trying to educate people — that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Being an organ donor is more than just having a sticker on your driver’s license.”