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Foul weather doesn't stop Sudbury from raising awareness of organ donations

More than 100 people participate in annual  Donor Awareness Celebration at Bell Park
Maureen Horan ties green balloons to the fence at Grace Hartman Amphitheatre as part of the  18th annual Michael O'Reilly Organ Donor Awarness Celebration. (Arron Pickard)

Don Perreault is living proof that registering to be an organ donor has the potential to save lives.

Diagnosed with leukemia when he was 28, Perreault received two bone marrow transplants. Complications from the second transplant caused damage to his lung tissue, and over a few years, his lung capacity diminished to the point he needed a transplant in 2009.

He was put on a waiting list — he was told it would take two to three years — and moved to Toronto, across from the hospital, so he would be closer when the time came.

“Seven and a half weeks later, I got the call that the operation was happening,” Perreault said. “I was really, really fortunate. Everything, for me, just went with clockwork.”

Perreault was one of more than 100 people to participate in the 18th annual Michael O'Reilly Organ Donor Awareness Celebration at Bell Park on May 6. It was capped off with a walk from Grace Hartman Amphitheatre, down Paris Street to Science North, then back to the amphitheatre along the boardwalk.

Peter Monaghan, vice-president, Irish Heritage Club of Sudbury and a member of its organ donation awareness committee, said the weather was chilly, but more than 100 people still managed to make it out.

“You hear about these people who have received these organ transplants, and it brings a tear to your eye, because it gives them a second chance at life,” Monaghan said. “That's why we do this.”

The Irish Heritage Club of Sudbury was established in 1959 by four Irish immigrants. One of those founding members had a family member pass away while he was on the waiting list for an organ transplant, and that's the annual event started, Monaghan said.

“In Sudbury, we have about 52 per cent of the population signed up as organ donors, but we'd like to get it to 100 per cent,” he said. “Awareness events like this walk help in spreading the message.”

Perreault said he couldn't agree more.

“You aren't going to do anything with your organs when you die,” he said. “Why wouldn't you want to give them to someone else and improve their quality of life?”

For anyone who is thinking about singing up to become an organ donor, but isn't sure, he encourages them to show up at events like the Organ Donor Awareness Celebration and talk to transplant recipients.

“It will give them the thought that, what if it was you, or your children or your grandchildren,” he said. “I woke up at the age of 28, and my whole life changed. 

An even easier way to get inspired to register as an organ donor is to visit, he said.


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Arron Pickard

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