Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Partners Recognize Donate Life Month

Residents encouraged to consider organ, tissue and eye donation

DETROIT, Mich. – Citing an increased need for organ, tissue and eye donors, especially in Wayne County, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today encouraged residents to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

“With more than 3,500 people awaiting a potentially life-saving organ transplant, we still need more names on the registry,” Johnson said as dozens of organ donation volunteers visited Secretary of State offices statewide to encourage people to sign up. “This is especially true in Wayne County, where one-third of all adults waiting for a transplant reside, and where 39 percent of adults are listed on the registry, compared to nearly 55 percent of adults statewide.”

Johnson was joined by Rick Hillbom, interim CEO for Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s organ and tissue recovery program; Diana Kern, executive director for Eversight Michigan, the state’s cornea and eye tissue recovery program; those waiting for an organ, and family members whose loved ones donated organs to save the lives of strangers.

“Our state has made huge advances in creating a culture where donation is the norm, where there’s an expectation that people will choose to save and improve lives,” Hillbom said. “We could not have come this far without the dedication and support of our Secretary of State colleagues. Donation is a selfless act that leaves a legacy of generosity.”

Johnson presented Shining Star Awards to Deacon Lawrence Bailey, the Rev. Ronald Copeland and Artelia Griggs for their work with the Angels for Life program. Angels for Life reaches out through churches and other houses of worship to share the need for organ donors. All three of the awardees have been instrumental in sharing the message in Detroit and Wayne County, according to Gift of Life Michigan. Bailey is a kidney recipient. Copeland is a liver recipient and Griggs is a donor mother.

Johnson also announced the statewide Transplant Center Challenge, a competition between each of Michigan’s nine transplant centers to see who can add the most new donors to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry over the next year. Four of the transplant centers are located in Wayne County, including Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Harper University Hospital, Henry Ford Hospital and St. John Hospital and Medical Center.

Johnson made huge changes in the way the Secretary of State’s office approached organ donation after she was elected in 2010. At that time only 27 percent of eligible residents had signed up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. Working with her partners like Gift of Life Michigan and Eversight Michigan, she created an advisory task force, put organ donor reminders on widely-used SOS forms, enlisted social media and directed employees to ask customers if they wanted to sign up, doubling the percentage of names on the list. About 85 percent of people who sign up do so through the Secretary of State’s Office.

Today marks Donate Life Day when dozens of volunteers from Gift of Life Michigan, Eversight Michigan and Michigan Lions and Lioness Clubs visit Secretary of State offices across the state to tell their stories. These volunteers have a personal connection to organ donation, either as recipients, family and friends of donors or people currently waiting for an organ.

“On Donate Life Day last year, thanks to more than 120 volunteers, we added 1,619 new names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry,” Kern said. “We are so grateful to the Secretary of State and her staff for their dedication to improving and saving lives across the state.”

According to national statistics, 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant. However, one donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 50 people.

Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry by visiting or any Secretary of State office. Those who sign up receive a heart emblem for their driver’s license that indicates their decision to be an organ donor. A new card with a permanent heart emblem is issued at renewal time.