NATIONAL DONATE LIFE MONTH-COTO DE CAZA-PUTTING A FACE ON ORGAN DONATION
Source: OC Register
COTO DE CAZA – From the outside, Connor Pope seems like an average 16 year old.
The Santa Margarita Catholic High sophomore plays basketball, is an active member of San FranciscoSolano Church and likes to hang with his friends. He plans to study business or finance at a university once he graduates.
Connor Pope, 16, stands with his grandmother and his inspiration, Jackie Colleran, 69. Pope began the Pink Dot Club to spread awareness about organ donation when Colleran had to slow her own efforts after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA POPE
Pope is also an organ donor, a distinction marked by a pink dot on his driver's license, the same dot that is on the licenses of nearly six million other Californians. Pope, however, has turned it into a symbol to inspire others – mostly teens – to "donate life" through an organization he calls the Pink Dot Club.
It began with a Facebook fan page where Pope posted a short tale about the role organ donation played in the life of his grandmother. Pope also used the page to direct readers to donatelifecalifornia.org, a site that allows online signup for organ and tissue donation.
As the number of fans grew – there are more than 900 so far – so did the number of states they were from. So Pope began posting links to donor registries in other states, too.
The inspiration for the Pink Dot Club is Jackie Colleran, Pope's his 69-year-old grandmother who received a life-saving transplant more than 14 years ago. Colleran received the liver of Wade Schoenhals, a man in Texaswho died in a motorcycle crash.
For Colleran, it meant being able to see her grandchildren grow up. She became an advocate for organ donation, raising awareness about its importance, Pope said. She was chosen to ride on the Donate Life float during the 2006 Rose Parade. And she met Schoenhals' family on national television.
In October, however, she was forced to slow down after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. So her grandson decided to make sure her influence would not be interrupted.
"I was kind of picking up where she left off," Pope said about starting the club.
April is organ donation awareness month. More than 21,000 Californians are in need of an organ transplant, but a third of them will likely die waiting, according to donatelifecalifornia.org.
Pope wants to change that by speaking to local service groups and organizations, taking steps to establish formal clubs at schools, and by simply talking to friends and family. He hopes the Pink Dot Club may one day become much bigger than what it is now.
"I want to become ... more of an inspiration for other people," Pope said. "I feel like we can spread the word about the Pink Dot Club and organ donation around the United States."