Gift of Life wins national awards

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Donate Life America gives organ donor program three major awards: Best donor registration program, best volunteer, best ‘coach’ to national peers

ANN ARBOR, MI — Gift of Life Michigan has won Donate Life America’s Platinum and Pinnacle Awards for best overall organ donor registration program in the nation this past year. A Gift of Life volunteer also was chosen as the inaugural winner of the Donate Life America Volunteer of the Year Award, while a staffer earned the Trey Schwab Coaching Legacy Award as the best mentor to her national peers.

The honors were announced Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the national donation advocacy organization’s annual conference in Richmond, Va.

“These awards are extremely well-deserved,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life, the state’s organ and tissue donor program. “Our staff and our volunteers are so committed to this cause, because we all believe that we honor life through donation.”

The Gift of Life Transplant Center Challenge, led by communications specialist Betsy Miner-Swartz, received the DLA Pinnacle Award for best hospital-related program, as well as the Platinum Award for best overall program. The Transplant Center Challenge was a competition between the state’s nine transplant centers to see which one could register the most new donors from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017. All told, 2,732 people joined the Michigan Organ Donor Registry through the challenge, which was won by St. John Transplant Specialty Center in Detroit. Miner-Swartz, along with hospital services associate III, Erin McGreal-Miller, and Jackie Iseler – a doctorate of nursing student at Michigan State University at the time – created and launched the evidence-based challenge to help remind transplant patients and those on the waiting list, that they, too, can donate tissue and organs.

Liver transplant recipient Tim Davidson, of Highland, Mich., won the DLA Volunteer of the Year Award. He was chosen for his outstanding efforts to honor his donor and all donors for the “gift of life” he received in 2008. Since 2011, he has used his talents to create posters that have been displayed at celebrations in Michigan and across the country at the Donate Life Transplant Games. Davidson has donated nearly 1,500 hours visiting Secretary of State offices, sharing his story and in other activities that encourage people to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

Finally, Jennifer Tislerics, Gift of Life’s special events and partnerships coordinator, won the Trey Schwab Coaching Legacy Award, named for a former basketball coach and lung transplant recipient who was an inspiration and mentor to the Donate Life community until his death in 2016. Judges noted Tislerics’ knowledge and willingness to always assist colleagues across the country through social media, webinars and her service on various Donate Life America committees.

“We rely on programs and people like this to increase the number of donated organs, eyes and tissues available, while continuing to develop a culture where donation is embraced as a fundamental human responsibility,” said David Fleming, president and CEO of Donate Life America. “We are grateful for their work, as are the nearly 117,000 people in the United States who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant and the many thousands more who would benefit from tissue and corneal transplants.”

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