PITTSBURGH, Pa. — More than 107,000 people are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in the United States, including 500 West Virginians. But only 30% of West Virginians are registered organ donors. To educate West Virginians about this critical need in their own backyard and rally them around a solution, the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), Donate Life West Virginia, W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice and other local partners, including the families of fallen Charleston Police Officer and organ donor Cassie Johnson, and Cecil Lockhart, a West Virginian and oldest organ donor in U.S. history, commemorated the first-ever West Virginia Donor Day on Sunday, August 1. The 8/1 date highlights the fact that just one donor can save eight lives.
“Twenty people die every day because the organs they need are not donated in time,” Gov. Justice said in a proclamation recognizing August 1 as the first-ever West Virginia Donor Day. “The most effective way to address the public health crisis surrounding organ donor registrations is to encourage citizens to register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor. We ask the citizens of the state of West Virginia to support and register in this life-saving initiative.”
“Every day, we at CORE are inspired by the generous West Virginia donors and their families, who through their own grief, choose to give others the gift of life,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE. “West Virginia Donor Day is a time to celebrate them. It serves as a moment for communities across the state to come together, so that we can all encourage our own family, friends and neighbors to make the Pledge for Life by registering as a donor. The lives of 500 West Virginians are depending on it.”
“I’m a firm believer in donation,” said Sheryl Johnson, mother of Officer Cassie Johnson, as she recalled her daughter’s final life-saving gift as an organ donor. “I know it’s what she wanted. They sat me down and explained everything to me, told me how many people she could help and maybe give them a little bit more life, and it helped me get through everything.”
Sharon Lockhart White, daughter of oldest organ donor in U.S. history Cecil Lockhart, shares Johnson’s positive outlook on organ donation.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing, the lady that has his liver can live on,” White said, reflecting on her father’s legacy. “She’s able to live on through my dad—through my dad’s liver—and he would love it.”
CORE and Donate Life West Virginia invite all employers, organizations and associations across the state to join the growing list of West Virginia Donor Day partners, which includes the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, a growing list of local businesses and hospital partners.
Gov. Justice also acknowledged in his proclamation the giving community that already exists in West Virginia, demonstrated by the two consecutive record-breaking years for organ donation the Mountain State achieved in 2019 and 2020. The innovative partnership between CORE and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sets a strong stage for this first-ever observance as well, having made possible more than 30,000 organ donor registrations via hunting and fishing license purchases since its inception in December 2019.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, anyone can register as an organ donor regardless of age or medical history. The decision to register not only holds the power to save eight lives, but also to heal the lives of 75 through tissue donation. West Virginians can register as an organ donor by visiting http://registerme.org/core or their local DMV, or when purchasing a hunting and fishing license.
To learn more about how to get involved with West Virginia Donor Day, visit the Donate Life West Virginia website or follow @COREDonateLife and @DonateLifeWV on Facebook and Instagram. For more information about CORE and its life-saving mission, visit www.core.org.