Ad campaign asks youth to 'recycle' their organs
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2:50PM EDT
The Trillium Gift of Life Network has launched a provocative new campaign aimed at getting young people to consider the ultimate act of recycling: organ donation.
Ads, some featuring a recycling symbol dripping with blood, have gone up in cities across Ontario.
The tongue-in-cheek ads on transit systems feature spoofs of grocery store flyers, advertising "sale" prices for vital organs such as the heart. The cutline reads "If organs and tissue were this easy to find, we wouldn't need donors."
The campaign is designed to drive youth aged 15 to 24 to a new website, RecycleMe.org, which has users click on various parts of a young man's body to see the organs inside and how they can be "recycled."
Click on the eyes, for example, and you can learn that even someone with terrible eyesight can donate their corneas to restore the sight of someone in need.
The 10-week campaign running through the spring and summer also includes ads on bus shelters, construction site boarding, and online, on sites such as Facebook.
To develop the campaign, the Trillium Gift of Life Network worked with a youth advisory panel over six months, asking them to help come up with a campaign that would cut through the thousands of messages that youth receive through the media every day.
"The youth groups told us that we had to do something dramatic to get their attention. We think this does get their attention," Frank Markel, president of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, told CTV Toronto.
"We hope it catches like wildfire with young people and to get them to go on the website and register and talk about it with their parents."
The group decided to aim their advertising campaign at 15- to 24-year-olds because they are thought to be a receptive and influential audience when it comes to organ donation and in spreading the word to others.
"Research has shown that organ and tissue donation is simply not on the radar screen of most youth," notes David Caplan, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "This campaign is an important step towards creating greater awareness and increasing donor rates."
The campaign has special significance for Jaynel White, 18, whose father passed away in 2006 while on a waiting list for a heart transplant.
"When he passed away, instead of receiving a transplant, he actually donated his organs to save other people's lives," she told Canada AM.
Dave White's lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys and eyes were donated to strangers.
Jaynel wrote about the experience in a school essay that was passed by her mother to family friends and acquaintances until it reached the Trillium Gift of Life Network. Now she talks to high school students about the importance of signing up.
Every three days, someone dies waiting for an organ transplant and nearly 1,700 patients in Ontario are on a transplant waiting list. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through tissue donation.
Of course, it's not just youth who can donate organs. Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of his/her age or state of health.
To date, the oldest Canadian organ donor was over 90 years of age while the oldest tissue donor was 102 years old. Even someone with serious illness can be an organ or tissue donor.