NASHVILLE, TN (TN Tribune) – Tennessee Donor Services (TDS), the nonprofit responsible for recovering organs for transplant across Tennessee, today announced that Sumner County, TN, is the nation’s first Donate Life County. On Thursday, June 2, TDS and Sumner County celebrated the distinction and kicked off the county-wide initiative at the Sumner County Administration Building.
Sumner County received the designation because of the widespread support for organ donor registration and awareness of the need for organ and tissue donors among its residents, businesses and officials. Sumner County Clerk and TDS Advisory Board Chair, Bill Kemp, was a founding member of the Tennessee County Clerk Organ Donation Awareness Foundation in 1996. The Foundation has increased organ and tissue donor registration by supporting public education at county clerk offices across the state, including the development and deployment of the ‘Donate a Dollar’ campaign that accompanies motor vehicle registration in Tennessee.
“It fills me with pride to know that Sumner County is playing such an important role in improving the lives of others,” said Kemp. “You don’t usually connect the job of tax collector with saving lives, yet that is a daily reality for county clerks thanks to the partnership of the Organ Donation Awareness Foundation and Tennessee Donor Services. Currently, about 43% of eligible Tennesseans are registered as organ and tissue donors. I know that number will rise as more counties in our great state join together to support registration and donation.”
As part of the Donate Life County designation, Sumner County businesses are partnering with TDS on two awareness campaigns – “The #BeTheGift Challenge’ and “Show Your Heart.” The #BeTheGift Challenge is an effort in which municipalities and businesses challenge each other to register 115,000 new organ donors by year end. With “Show Your Heart,” businesses celebrate customers when they show the heart on their driver’s license.
Businesses currently participating in the campaigns include the Sumner County Clerk office, Gallatin Driver Services Center, local Chambers of Commerce, Busy Bee Printing, Café 393 on Main, Fairvue Pizza & Pub, Long Hollow Pizza & Pub, and Sanders Ferry Pizza & Pub.
“Tennesseans are deeply committed to supporting the gift of organ and tissue donation, so it comes as no surprise that our very own Sumner County is leading the nation as the first Donate Life County,” says Jill Grandas, Executive Director of TDS. “We are so appreciative of the many businesses and organizations that have already jumped in as partners to join us as we register more organ and tissue donors and save lives as a result.”
TDS continues its mission to raise awareness and increase registration numbers to save more lives. TDS reported in 2021 that 433 Tennessee organ donor heroes gave lifesaving gifts that resulted in 1,232 organ transplants. Additionally, 2,468 tissue donor heroes provided gifts of healing and mobility.
Still, the number of individuals in need of an organ transplant continues to climb. More than 100,000 people are currently on the national organ transplant waiting list, and more than 3,000 of those people are on the Tennessee waiting list. An average of 17 people in the U.S. die each day because of the shortage of lifesaving organs.
One donor can save as many as 8 lives with their life-saving gifts of heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines, and heal another 75 individuals through the gift of tissue. The way to save the lives of those awaiting a transplant is to register more donors and educate the public about the lifesaving impacts of donation and transplantation. TDS encourages all eligible Tennesseans to #BeTheGift and register to be an organ and tissue donor at BeTheGiftToday.com.