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High school nonprofit group helps Gift of Life Michigan raise awareness and save lives

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Grant funds will enhance education on organ and tissue donation

Gift of Life Michigan will use $75,000 in donations from a student-led nonprofit organization to help bring awareness of organ and tissue donation to young people across the state. Key2Finesse, a student-led non-profit, raised $75,000 for Gift of Life Michigan in 2020.

The funds were generated in 2020 through a year-long partnership between the Gift of Life Foundation and Key2Finesse, a nonprofit organization made up of high school students from the Detroit area. Key2Finesse partners with a different charitable organization every year and has generated more than $130,000 for organizations like The Heat and Warmth Fund, Gleaner’s Community Food Bank and Easter Seals since 2015. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the $75,000 generated in 2020 was the most the organization generated in a single year.

“We were so grateful when Key2Finesse selected us as their charity of choice in 2020,” said Susan Rink, Chief of philanthropy and foundation programs at Gift of Life. “This is an inspiring group of young people who are determined to give back to the community. We think this is an excellent use of the money they raised. The education and awareness we can provide to their peers may save lives one day.”

The funds will allow Gift of Life to enhance the All of Us youth education program, which teaches students about organ, eye and tissue donation. The goal of the program is to provide students accurate information about donation, so they can make an informed decision when asked to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry at their local Secretary of State office. All Michigan residents are asked that question when applying for a driver’s license or state ID.

The grant will pay for several traveling trunks, which feature plastinated organ and tissue samples, glasses that simulate corneal blindness and workbooks, along with promotional items. They can be shipped to schools free of charge or used for in-person learning as Covid-19 restrictions lift.

“These trunks will help us reach more school districts and engage with more students,” said Shalonda Griffin, community relations coordinator for Gift of Life Michigan. “They will allow us to build on an already strong program and help these students fully visualize this important topic.”

Key2Finesse is was founded in 2015 by high school students Esha Ghosalkar and Chintan Maheshwari with the goal to create future leaders. It promotes public speaking and other life skills and puts on several events every year, including confidence building and public speaking workshops and career exploration symposiums.

Board members include: Varsha Penumalee (Troy High school), Krish Ghosalkar (Troy High School), Shaarav Shah (Troy High School), Vishvaa Ravishankar (Troy High School), Nick Lazrado (Athens High School), Rishi Narendra Kumar (Northville High School), Shrija Thota (Novi High School), Rhea Bhosale (Plymouth Canton High School), Ruhin Shah (Dakota High School) and Kanal Patel ( International Academy East).

Ghosalkar said the organization learned a lot working with Gift of Life last year and liked the idea of using the funds they raised to educate students in Michigan and to correct pre-conceived misconceptions about the process.

“If kids are educated properly, they can make informed decisions,” said Ghosalkar. “It really just boils down to saving lives. If we don’t educate young people now, they may never understand that.”

Parmalee agreed.

“As an organization focused on and led by the youth, it is incredibly fulfilling to inform our own peers about the truths of organ donation,” she said. “Through the funds we have raised, we hope to disprove the false narratives regarding this issue and leave a lasting impact on the generations that follow.”

For more information on the All of Us program, visit golm.org/allofus.

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