Driver License Division Partners with Donor Connect
“Smile If You Checked Yes” is the theme of press conference highlighting the partnership between DPS’ Driver License Division and DonorConnect
Watch the full press conference from a Facebook Live recording below.
At a virtual press conference, the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Driver License Division (DLD) and DonorConnect highlighted the “Smile Yes If You Checked Yes” campaign which continues the two agencies’ longstanding partnership to provide information about and pathways to participate in organ donation in Utah. During the month of February, DLD employees will be wearing shirts featuring the message “Smile Yes If You Checked Yes to Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation.”
Dixie Madsen of DonorConnect started the press conference by sharing that in 2020, Utah saw a record-breaking number of organ and tissue donors. There was also a record number of people who said yes to organ donation on their driver license and identification cards. In 2019, 60.49% who got a driver license or identification card said yes to donation, and that number rose to 62.29% in 2020, representing almost a 2% increase.
“It’s such a critical partnership,” said Tracy Schmidt, Executive Director and President of DonorConnect, in reference to the DLD partnership as he shared the fact that over 95% of people who register to be a donor do it through the DLD. Mr. Schmidt recognized the DLD staff for their positive nature and for sharing their insights and knowledge when people ask about participating in organ donation. “In spite of COVID-19, we saw a 20% increase in the number of organ donors and a 25% increase in people who were transplanted,” said Mr. Schmidt. He discussed how the t-shirt campaign at DLD can help more people be aware of the different types of things people can donate, because the need for different types of tissue for saving lives and enhancing lives is just as high as that for organs such as hearts and kidneys, which are what many people primarily think of when they think about organ donation.
Driver License Division Director Chris Caras shared an anonymous quote he felt was relevant to the division’s partnership with DonorConnect: “Just because a person smiles all the time doesn’t mean their life is perfect. That smile is a symbol of hope and strength.” Director Caras said that the t-shirts the DLD employees are wearing this year feature the message “Smile if you checked yes to organ, eye and tissue donation.” “And we’re encouraging you to wear that smile and give that hope and that strength to those who need exactly that,” he said. Referring to individuals who are waiting for transplants, Caras said, “They need hope, hope for an extended life or improved quality of life or for healing. And strenath because often they may feel frail or alone in their circumstances. And that hope and strength is what this program offers and that’s why we’re proud to be part of it.” The t-shirts serve as a visible way to start the conversation about organ donation. Mentioning the positive experience DLD has had with the campaign, Director Caras said, “we’re just excited to have a role in the conversation, even if it’s just starting it.”
Tom and Donna Ostler joined the virtual event to share their story and experience as the parents of a donor. Close to 14 years ago they lost their 16-year-old son Tyler in a work-related accident and were contacted by DonorConnect. Reflecting on that call, Donna Ostler said, “it was a hard choice when they called and asked us… But it was something that we both thought was very him and that he really would have wanted to help.”
Tom Ostler said the theme of the campaign – about smiling – perfectly fit his son, who was always smiling. “And on Tyler’s headstone, we had engraved ‘Smile for Me,’” he said. “And that goes along with how happy he would be to know that some of his tissues helped improve the lives of people who are still alive today.” The Ostlers expressed their gratitude to the Driver License Division and DonorConnect for supporting the organ donation program and facilitating participation in it. Tyler was “always trying to help someone who he felt was less fortunate,” Tom Ostler said. “We feel blessed to know that he’s still having that type of impact on people. He was always giving more than he had.”
Adrianna Osman, a DLD employee from Price, shared her experience as the daughter of a transplant recipient. Her mother was born with a condition that meant by the time she was 32, she needed to get a kidney transplant or she would face going on dialysis. Fortunately, one of Adrianna’s mother’s sisters was able to donate a kidney to her. “My mom is now 64, and lives a healthy life,” Adrianna said. It’s been 33 years since her mother received her transplant and Adrianna shared that her mother is one of the oldest living recipients of a transplant. Adrianna said the t-shirt campaign and working at DLD gives her the opportunity to share information about organ donation with customers and that she tells people how organ donation really can save lives.
DonorConnect is the federally designated, nonprofit community service organization dedicated to the recovery and transplantation of organs and tissues for Utah, southeastern Idaho, western Wyoming, and Elko, Nevada. Their service area encompasses 3.8 million residents, 94 hospitals, and three transplant centers – Primary Children’s Hospital, Intermountain Medical Center, University of Utah Hospital (along with the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center).
For more information and statistics about organ donation and transplants in the U.S., visit https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html
Photos from DLD offices with staff wearing their campaign t-shirts