Mayor Randy Hope and Brett DeKoning, 16, a Grade 11 student at John McGregor Secondary School, help light the torch at the beginning of the Chatham-Kent portion of a Canada-wide campaign to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation. (DIANA MARTIN PHOTO)
An Olympic-style torch was carried through Chatham Thursday to raise awareness about the need for organ and tissue donations.
Three high school students, along with Dr. Peter MacKinnon and Const. Rene Cowell of the Chatham-Kent Police Service, carried the torch from the Civic Centre to John McGregor Secondary School.
The torch, which was blessed in 2001 by the late Pope John Paul II, is being carried across Canada under the direction of George Marcello of Toronto, who launched the awareness campaign six years ago.
"When I met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican he challenged young people to get involved in the awareness campaign for organ and tissue donations,'' he said.
Marcello said there are more than 4,000 Canadians and 80,000 U.S. residents desperately waiting to receive organs to save their lives. He said hundreds of students across Canada have been selected to represent their communities by carrying the torch.
"The campaign will give students an opportunity to remember something the rest of their lives,'' he said.
Marcello, a liver recipient, established a charitable organization known as Step By Step in 1997. It is committed to promoting the importance of organ and tissue donations.
Marcello said there is no age barrier regarding donors and added that all major religions support organ and tissue donations.
"Success rates climb over 90 per cent for living organ recipients to enjoy productive lives,'' he said.
He said Ontarians can indicate their desire to become an organ and tissue donor on their health card.
"Also, let your loved ones know about your decision,'' he said.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through tissue donation