A publication of Gift of Life Michigan • Spring 2022 • Volume 1 • Issue 2

Born a hero

black and white photo of a newborn baby with her parents in the hospital shortly after deliveryJade Townsend spent a brief time on Earth and made a big difference

Baby Jade came into the world with all odds against her and left with a legacy that now defines her. 

She lived for just 55 minutes. In that short lifetime, Jade touched hundreds of people with her story and her gifts of life-saving heart valves and tissue for healing and research.  

Her mom and dad, Allison and Nick Townsend, learned at 26 weeks gestation that their first baby had an extra chromosome and would not survive long after her birth -- if she made it that far.

We're back!

Hello, and welcome to the second issue of Gift of LifeLINES!

Each April, National Donate Life Month offers us the opportunity to remember and thank our donor heroes and their families, celebrate new life for recipients, lend hope to those who are waiting and inspire more people to join the Organ Donor Registry.

April is always an exciting, busy time at Gift of Life Michigan and this year has been especially so. With a lull in COVID, we’re back in the community for flag-raisings, outreach and education events, and recognition ceremonies. We are also launching new initiatives to get our message of hope and healing to more people. You can read about them all in this issue of Gift of LifeLINES.

We also have some pretty big news. We have just launched the largest statewide campaign in our history, called Check Your Heart. You will see it on billboards, on social media, in the news, and elsewhere as we encourage residents to check to make sure they have a heart on their driver’s license or state ID.

We hope the short Check Your Heart message resonates as a simple, positive action. Check your license or state ID to see if you’re on the Donor Registry and sign up if you aren’t. And you can help by talking to your friends and family. Ask them if they’ve checked their IDs for the heart symbol. It is a conversation worth having because it could save lives.

Also, you may have noticed a new face on our social media feeds. We have welcomed a new mascot, Hartley T. Heart, to our organization. Hartley has already proven to be very popular in hospitals, and events – even at a Detroit Red Wings game. Hartley has Instagram, Facebook and TikTok accounts and will be attending events across the state to represent Gift of Life in a fun new way.

This issue also features the incredible story of baby Jade Townsend who lived for less than an hour and died a hero after her parents decided to donate her placenta, brain for research and heart valves to save other babies.

We also will tell you about a member of our Donor Family Services team and about a dedicated volunteer gone too soon. We also have great news about some new technology that has already helped two donors give their final gifts this year.

Thank you for reading, and for your positive feedback on our first issue, and for all you do. We simply could not do our work without you and the passion and support you graciously provide.

Thank you and stay well!

Dorrie Dils
President and CEO
Gift of Life Michigan 

Gift of Life Michigan launches ‘Check Your Heart’ campaign

One million new registered donors sought

The Check Your Heart campaign urges Michiganders to look for the red heart on their driver’s license or state IDs that indicates whether they have signed up on the Donor Registry.

“We wanted something simple that would resonate with people across Michigan,” said Dorrie Dils, president and CEO. “Check Your Heart is a simple, positive action that anyone in Michigan can take. We strongly believe it will lead to a significant increase in the number of registered organ and tissue donors in Michigan.”

Michigan sample driver's license with red heart donor symbol emphasized, and Check Your Heart logo

white couple posed together and looking at camera

Volunteer Spotlight: Remembering Kenton Kurth

Volunteer honored posthumously for work with Gift of Life Michigan Kenton Kurth never met a stranger. “He never met anyone he didn’t like, and I don’t think anyone didn’t like […]

woman seated at desk, working on computer while wearing a surgical mask

Staff Spotlight: Tragedies and legacies

Autumn Harris guides families in crisis as their loved ones save and transform lives. The young wife of a dying man asks his nurse about organ donation and Autumn Harris is right there with answers to her questions and so much more.   Autumn and her […]

Blue heart-shaped mascot at podium with American and Michigan flags behind them

Gift of Life Michigan Introduces Chief Mascot

Gift of Life Michigan welcomes Hartley T. Heart. Hartley is Gift of Life Michigan’s newest employee, providing a light-hearted (pun intended) opportunity to engage people in a life-saving message. […]

Join us at the State Capitol

Join donor families, transplant recipients, waiting patients, caregivers, medical professionals and other supporters of organ, eye and tissue donation on the lawn at the Michigan State Capitol building to celebrate the gifts of life, sight and mobility and to promote the Michigan Organ Donor Registry!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

  • Program at Noon on the Capitol steps
  • Lunch provided, while supplies last
  • Rain or shine!
Check Your Heart Capitol Rally with image of Michigan Capitol Building
Female doctor holding open chart looking at the camera

New legislation encourages family doctors to educate about organ and tissue donation

New legislation introduced in April will help Michigan family doctors and urgent care centers provide patients with […]

Facebook Fundraisers are an easy way to show support

One of the easiest ways to help the Gift of Life Foundation is with a Facebook Fundraiser for your birthday, or in honor or memory of a friend or family member.  

It’s simple to set up and, once it’s active, people who care about you and the mission can give as little as $1 to help you reach whatever goal you set. The average Facebook Fundraiser gift to the foundation is $50. 

“Every single person who takes a few minutes to set up a Facebook Fundraiser for us is making a tangible difference,” said Susan Rink, chief of philanthropy and foundation programs for the Gift of Life Foundation. “I’m continuously wowed by how eager people are to pitch in $25 or $50 for our mission. Those gifts combine to help us pay for important projects and drugs for organ recipients in need.” 

Foundation Focus: 2022 Annual appeal

As Gift of Life Michigan battles the ever-present transplant waiting list and strives to add one million names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, resources for critical initiatives and donation community programs have never been more important.   

So, the Gift of Life Foundation has just launched its first annual appeal with a goal of raising $25,000 in the coming weeks and months. If you would like to help, you can give securely online at golm.org/contribute  

“There are budgets that don’t cover some of the important programming and initiatives taking place in the donation community. Without the generosity of individuals who want to help change lives for others, some things simply wouldn’t happen,” said Susan Rink, chief of philanthropy and foundation programs for the Gift of Life Foundation. “We think now – during Donate Life Month – is the time for our first annual appeal as a foundation.”  

Gold-tone leaves on a tree display on a hospital wall
brown teddy bear wearing a green Gift of Life logo shirt sitting on an afghan blanket
Surgeon works on donor lungs inside the TransMedics machine

Breaking The Time Barrier: Organ Care System Preserves Lungs Outside The Body

Gift of Life is using a new organ care system that preserves lungs outside the body and extends the amount of time from surgical recovery to transplantation. The TransMedics system also reconditions marginally healthy lungs after they’re connected to the machine, making more lungs healthy enough to transplant. The result: More lungs available and improved quality of the organs for recipients. Without this system, donated lungs must be transplanted within six hours. In these cases, transplants were successful after seven hours. One set of lungs was preserved for 23 hours.
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Woman presenting a blue and green glass award to another woman

Gift of Life Michigan honors champions of donation 

The fourth annual Champions Gala kicked off National Donate Life Month, with special tributes to the best of the best in Michigan’s donation and transplant community. Gift of Life Michigan honored 17 individuals, four partner organizations, and one hospital with 2022 Donation Champion awards, recognizing their extraordinary efforts to help fulfill the wishes of organ and tissue donors and their families. 
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Graphic if a very diverse crowed of people with Gift of Life logo and "Better Together" headline, rainbow colors and many shades of brown at the bottom

Better Together

Already recognized as a Great Place to Work, Gift of Life Michigan is taking steps to become even better.   The organization’s Better Together work group, which focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion, conducted a survey recently in which nearly half of Gift of Life’s staff submitted feedback about what they wanted to learn from the group.   
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Myth: My religion does not support organ and tissue donation. 
FACT: All major religions approve of the concept of organ and tissue donation, and many consider it the ultimate act of human kindness and generosity.

The largest religions in Michigan, including Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam, support donation and leave the choice up to the individual.  

Gift of Life Michigan encourages anyone with questions about how their faith tradition feels about organ and tissue donation to talk to their faith leaders, as well as their own family members, and make an informed decision.  

Sign up as a donor today.

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