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Gift of Life Celebrates "National Donor Sabbath" Weekend with Faith-Based Activities

National Donor Sabbath is an opportunity for religious communities to let its congregants know that donation saves the lives of millions of people—people like Reverend Merle McJunkin, Assistant Pastor at Philadelphia’s Grace Baptist Church. In late 2007, Reverend McJunkin learned that his kidney disease would eventually necessitate a transplant. He had hoped to receive that transplant before he was in need of dialysis, but soon began the treatment, which was both time-consuming and tiring.

Gift of Life Celebrates “National Donor Sabbath” Weekend with Faith-Based Activities

November 9-11th, Gift of Life Joins with Congregations to Celebrate the Power of Donation

Philadelphia, PA – This November, congregations and houses of worship throughout the region will observe National Donor Sabbath, an ecumenical celebration of life that educates religious communities about organ, eye and tissue donation. From November 9-11th,faith-based organizations of all denominations will participate in activities that encourage congregants to register as donors and help Gift of Life spread the word that donation saves lives.

One of the most commonly-cited myths offered by individuals who say “no” when asked to register as an organ and tissue donor is that religions don’t support donation. The truth is that most major world religions have a positive stance on donation, but those views are not often clear to members of faith-based communities and congregations.

National Donor Sabbath is an opportunity for religious communities to let its congregants know that donation saves the lives of millions of people—people like Reverend Merle McJunkin, Assistant Pastor at Philadelphia’s Grace Baptist Church. In late 2007, Reverend McJunkin learned that his kidney disease would eventually necessitate a transplant. He had hoped to receive that transplant before he was in need of dialysis, but soon began the treatment, which was both time-consuming and tiring.

“Dialysis was difficult,” says McJunkin.“The process was six to seven hours a session, and six to seven sessions a week.” During his four years on dialysis, McJunkin had hopes of finding a living donor—a potential match—from within his own family.

“There were 16 to 17 family members who came forward to go through the testing process of donation, but none of them were a match.” Because living donors must be in top health, some of McJunkin’s family members were not matches due to medical issues.

His prayers for a transplant were finally answered after a Sunday morning service at his church in 2011. Michael Samuels, the husband of a member of Grace Baptist, approached McJunkin about his desire to be tested as a potential living donor. Samuels turned out to be the match McJunkin needed, and now more than a year after his transplant, both Pastor and congregant are back leading full, active lives.

“I now have 36 extras hours a week that were once devoted to dialysis,” said McJunkin. “Because of Michael’s gift of life, I have been able to celebrate my daughter becoming valedictorian of her elementary class and playing piano in her first recital. There would have been so many things I would have missed if Michael did not step forward.” Reverend McJunkin has seized the opportunity to celebrate his second chance by volunteering at Gift of Life, and speaking to groups and congregations about life-saving transplants.

More than 6,500 individuals like Reverend McJunkin are currently awaiting transplants in our region, joining the more than 116,000 the United States, and that number continues to grow at a rate of approximately 142 people per day. The solution to ending this waiting list is to encourage more people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and provide them with the correct information about how to join their state donor registries.

Faith leaders can help spread this message of hope and education by taking part in National Donor Sabbath activities. Whether it’s inviting a speaker to address a congregation, sharing donor designation materials or publishing an article in a community newsletter, helping to inspire others to become donors has the potential to save countless lives.

For more than 37 years, Gift of Life Donor Program—the region’s organ procurement organization (OPO) serving eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware—has coordinated more than 33,000 organ transplants, along with more than 300,000 tissue transplants. Gift of Life credits its success to the support of the public along with the commitment to excellence from its staff in coordination with the participating hospitals in the region.

For more information about how to register as an organ and tissue donor, or to obtain materials for National Donor Sabbath, please call Gift of Life at 1-800-DONORS-1 (1-800-366-6771) or visit at www.donors1.org*

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Media Resources, Dialysis, Volunteer Programs, Minority Outreach, Recipients

 
 
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