National Minority Donor Awareness Month empowers people of diverse ethnicities to say “yes” to organ and tissue donation, save lives

ITASCA, Ill.—July 29, 2020 — Ethnic minorities make up nearly 60% of people who are waiting for lifesaving organs in the U.S., but only a third of registered donors. Because transplant success rates are higher when the organ comes from a donor of the same ethnic background, there is a critical need for African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans to register as organ and tissue donors, notes Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network of Illinois.

In Illinois, 1,450 African Americans, 800 Hispanic Americans and 240 Asian Americans are on the transplant waiting list. National Minority Donor Awareness Month (NMDAM) provides the perfect opportunity to spread the word about the need for lifesaving organs and empower minorities to say “yes” to organ and tissue donation by becoming registered donors and by authorizing donation on a loved one’s behalf.

A not-for-profit organ procurement organization, Gift of Hope is partnering with its donation partners and Ambassadors for Hope volunteers to spread the word about the importance of ethnic diversity in donation and honor the courage of diverse donors and their families throughout August. Events include webinars with regional community organizations and hospital partnerships to encourage donor registration and promote healthy living and disease prevention that will decrease the need for transplantation.

“Registering as an organ and tissue donor is an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and offer hope for life to endure,” said Marion Shuck, director of family services and community outreach for Gift of Hope. “During National Minority Donor Awareness Month, not only do we highlight the need for minority donors, we recognize and celebrate the lifesaving contributions of minority organ and tissue donors, their families, minority transplant recipients and the healthcare professionals who enable the gift of hope through donation and transplantation.”

While sharing the same ethnicity is not a deciding factor in donation, the success of transplants increases when the donor and recipient are of the same ethnicity or racial group. That’s because compatible blood types and tissue markers – which are more likely to be found among people of the same ethnicity and race – decrease the risk of organ rejection. Genetic makeup is especially important in matching donated kidneys. For these patients, the lack of available organs means longer waiting periods on transplant lists, more time spent on dialysis, and sometimes death.

No one understands this more than Jim McFarlin, of Champaign, Ill., who received a kidney from a 6-year-old girl who also was African American. The kidney was a match, and in one year grew to fit his 6’3” frame. An Ambassador for Hope volunteer with Gift of Hope, McFarlin shares his story to dispel myths about donation and encourage African Americans and other minorities to register as donors.

“Black lives matter, and we need to get serious about organ donation,” McFarlin said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to get more people to sign up to be donors.”

During NMDAM, Gift of Hope is encouraging minority groups to make a difference by taking four easy steps to help save lives:

  • Register today at bit.ly/GOHRegister to become an organ and tissue donor or text COMMIT to 51555
  • Have the donation conversation with friends and family
  • Become an Ambassador for Hope volunteer
  • Say “yes” to organ and tissue donation on behalf of a loved one

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is a not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) that coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides public education on donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana. As one of 58 OPOs that make up the nation’s donation system, we work with 180 hospitals and serve 12 million people in our donation service area. Since 1986, we have saved the lives of more than 23,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients through our efforts.

Minority Organ and Tissue Donation

  • Nearly 60% of people waiting for lifesaving organs are minorities. On the transplant list in Illinois are: 1,450 African Americans, 800 Hispanic Americans, and 240 Asian Americans.
  • Ethnic minorities make up only 33% of registered donors in the U.S.
  • Critical qualities for donor and recipient matching are more likely to be found in members of the same ethnicity.
  • A greater diversity of donors may increase access to minorities waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.