Sen. Casey's organ donation bill aims to increase awareness


Nancy Williams-Smith donated a kidney to her friend, Jan Clary-Mathews, in 2010. To commemorate the experience, the Yorkers participated in a partial triathlon with another childhood friend.

Gwen Summers, a reading specialist in Southern York County School District, watched as her husband, Kirk, waited for a liver transplant.

Because organ donation touches the lives of so many Yorkers, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., wants to increase donation awareness even more.

The plan: Earlier this summer, Casey introduced the Organ Donation Awareness and Promotion Act, which would increase funding for several programs that support education and awareness about the donation process.

Casey wants to allocate $5 million a year for several initiatives, including public education efforts and a program to fund peer-reviewed studies and demonstration projects to increase organ donation and recovery rates, including living donation.

The bill is also personal for Casey, whose father — a former governor of Pennsylvania — was a transplant recipient.

"There are few acts more selfless and more powerful than the decision to donate a loved one's organs," the younger Casey said in a statement.

Support group: Dwendy Johnson, spokeswoman for Gift of Life Donor Program, said support groups in the York area have been crucial in bringing together those who have been affected by the organ donation process.

Her father, who received a heart transplant, started the York County support group 21 years ago.

The group meets on the fourth Monday of each month at Apple Hill Surgical Center, 25 Monument Road in York Township.

"It's become a place where residents can come together and connect," she said. "Most importantly, we get a chance to help educate others on the importance of this process."

Thanks to a donor, Johnson's father was able to live an additional 19 years, she said.

She believes the bill is a great step in increasing donation awareness.

Education: John Green, director of community relations for Gift of Life Donor Program, said the passage of the bill will allow donor programs around the country to educate people about organ donation.

Green's team with Gift of Life operates 14 different volunteer groups throughout southern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware that work to teach people about organ donation.

His agency works with families who have lost a loved one and are considering donating organs to help others.

"In many cases, families will lose someone suddenly," he said. "Our job is to be there for support."

Green added that 95 percent of the nation's population supports organ donation, but only 51 percent of people nationally have designated becoming a donor on their driver's license.

In Pennsylvania, 46 percent of residents have registered to be organ donors.

York is ranked fifth out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania in terms of the percentage of county residents who have the donor designation on their driver's license or ID card.

For more information regarding South Central Pennsylvania Coalition on Organ and Tissue Donation, and York Area Transplant Support, call (800) 366-6771, ext. 1506, or log on to

— Reach Sara Blumberg at