Helene Campbell launches campaign to support transplant recipients
Published Monday, April 22, 2013 2:46PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2013 9:05AM EDT
Double-lung transplant recipient Helene Campbell, who shot to fame as an organ donor advocate, is throwing her celebrity behind a new initiative to help other transplant patients.
On Monday the Ottawa native launched the Give2Live campaign -- a social media initiative that raises funds from an online network, otherwise known as crowdfunding, to help Canadians waiting for organ transplants.
Campbell shot to fame last year after she reached out to celebrities including Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres to raise awareness about the need for organ donations while awaiting a lung transplant.
In February, nine months after receiving new lungs in an operation performed at Toronto General Hospital, Campbell made an appearance on DeGeneres’ talk show.
Now, the 21-year-old has partnered with the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation to create the Give2Live campaign, which aims to help 30 patients and their families who are currently on the transplant waiting list.
The idea was born as Campbell was raising awareness about her own story.
“So we originally said if we’re going to allow this to happen, we’re going to move it and help other patients and other families going through the same situation,” she told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday.
According to Campbell, who celebrated the one-year anniversary since she received her double lung transplant in early April 2012, the minimum out-of-pocket expense for individuals and their families waiting for an organ donation is $10,000.
She said patients at Toronto General Hospital and other transplant centres across the county are required to live within two hours of the hospital. As a result, families are often forced to uproot their homes and find new housing, while bearing the financial burden of paying for medical equipment, food and transportation.
It’s not uncommon for families to have to re-mortgage their homes or give up activities, Campbell said. She was joined by her mother, Manon Campbell, who said she was forced to take a leave of absence from work when her daughter was waiting for a transplant.
The goal of the crowdfunding campaign is “to be able to help families financially. Then they can focus on actually what they need to do which is looking after each other,” Helene’s mother said.
Campbell said transplant patients who will be receiving help from the Give2Live campaign will be handpicked by a committee comprised of physicians and social workers.
Although the goal of the fundraising initiative is to raise money for 30 patients and their families, Campbell said she hopes the social media campaign will be able to help more Canadians.
“We don’t want to have to pick and choose families. We’re going to raise funds for enough families so that every family going through this will have the financial support they need,” Campbell said. “(The family’s) didn’t pick this. They didn’t choose to go through it.”
While certain programs for families with children in need of transplants exist, there is little financial support for those above the age of 18, says Sarnia, Ont. mother Jennifer Mavretic.
Mavretic’s 23-year-old daughter Kayla is awaiting a double-lung transplant. She said relocating to Toronto while Kayla waits to be put on the donor list is costing an average of $5,000 a month.
“I am away from my son and husband,” Mavretic told CTV’s Avis Favaro from Toronto. “It is crazy and there is no support out there.
“Other than fundraising, there is nothing I can do.”
Mavretic said she was pleased to hear about the Give2Live campaign and plans to apply for funding through the initiative.
“We’ve met a few other people in the same situation,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Funds raised through the Give2Live campaign will go towards the cost of food, accommodations, transportation and certain medical supplied that are not covered by Ontario Health Insurance.
Since the launch of the campaign Monday, more than $1000 had been raised by early Tuesday morning.
Individuals can also support the campaign by purchasing a silver bracelet featuring six charms, each representing the financial needs of transplant patients and their families.
Monday’s campaign launch coincides with the start of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week.
With files from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip