High school graduate raises awareness for organ donation
Effort raises funds, public awareness
Evan Pulliam knew he didn't want the gifts and attention that sending out his high school graduation announcements were sure to bring.
So Pulliam, 18, a recent graduate of Lexington Christian Academy, sent a letter to family and friends asking that instead of sending gifts, he preferred they donate money to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates.
"I thought it was weird to just send the invitation and ask for gifts," Pulliam said. "I didn't want any attention like that. A lot of times people send money even when you don't mention it, so we talked about what I could do instead."
Once he decided to ask family and friends for a charitable donation, it was clear he would choose Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, because both his father and uncle have needed an organ donation.
Pulliam said he's always been an advocate of organ donation, but this was a way for him to get more directly involved.
His father, Steve, was diagnosed with an eye disease that was causing him to go blind, but a cornea transplant 11 months ago restored his eyesight.
"Because of that donor, his life has been changed," Evan said. "It's weighed heavy on the minds of my family."
His uncle, Bill Pulliam, of Frankfort, has had seven heart bypass surgeries and will need a heart transplant in three years.
Bill Pulliam said he cried when he got the letter Evan sent with his graduation announcement.
"I found it very touching. It means a lot that anyone would care that much," Bill Pulliam said.
He said that even if the money his nephew raised doesn't directly help him, it doesn't matter because it's going to help many others in similar situations.
There have been several significant donations to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates because of Evan Pulliam's letter, which will have a substantial effect on educating the public about organ donation, said Charlotte Wong, a public educator for KODA.
It's not uncommon for people to ask for donations in honor of someone, but this is the first time she's seen a high school student do so, Wong said.
"That's pretty amazing for a kid that age," she said.
Wong said Evan Pulliam gives meaning to her job, which is to raise awareness, and that's exactly what Pulliam is doing.
KODA works to educate people about organ and tissue donation as well as promote the organ donor registry, she said.
When someone dies, it's much easier for the family to find out whether the person wanted to be an organ donor if he is on the organ donor registry, she said.
It's not enough to just sign the back of your driver's license, because often a family doesn't want to search for it while grieving or doesn't know of a person's intention to be a donor, Wong said.
To sign up for the registry, people can visit www.donatelifeky.org or sign up when renewing their driver's license, either of which will take less than two minutes, she said.
Pulliam will attend the University of Kentucky in the fall and wants to become an ophthalmologist, he said.
He said he plans to stay involved with KODA and remain an advocate for organ donation.
"I think it's interesting that I was doing this to not get any attention at all," he said, "but that's what ended up happening."