St. Joseph-Scollard Hall Catholic Secondary School student Julie Perrotta, 16, holds a torch during a walk from city hall to her school, Wednesday, to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation. Photo by Paul Chivers.
Driving is a rite of passage for teenagers, although there's more at stake than just earning their licence.
My mom told me all about it and that it was a good thing to do . . . I wanted to help as many people as I could, said Samantha Domanico, 16, explaining she had a classmate in mind when she signed her organ donor card.
Escorted by North Bay Police, about 40 students from St. Joseph-Scollard Hall Catholic Secondary School surrounded Julie Perrotta, 16, in the biting -28 C/-18.4 F winds as she carried a torch from city hall to the school Wednesday as part of a national campaign to enlighten others her age about organ and tissue donation.
Perrotta was only seven years old when she fell ill after a family vacation in Florida and was admitted toToronto's Hospital for Sick Children diagnosed with aplastic anemia when bone marrow can't produce enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Eventually things got a little worse and I had to receive a bone marrow transplant, she said, encouraging others to put themselves on the donor registry to improve the odds of finding a match.
Perrotta was chosen to bear the torch in a campaign that added North Bay to a roster of Canadian cities to promote organ and tissue donation.
She was one of the lucky ones, going from 100 pills to none and so far getting a clean bill of health at her annual checkups.
And she plans to return the favour. I know for sure that when I'm older I'm definitely going to donate, just because I know a lot of people that have lost their lives (by) not being able to receive an organ, she said.
It's music to George Marcello's ears. That message is going to be loud and clear. Students have the power to do a lot of things that can affect the community, he said.
Marcello, 52, has a condition that hardens his arteries, and he was saved by two liver transplants, the earliest in 1997.
That's when the Toronto man started his charity Step by Step Organ Transplant Association that's in the middle of its sixth cross-country Torch of Life campaign on behalf of more than 4,000 Canadians who are currently waiting for a transplant.
Marcello said he supports a presumed consent system similar to what's used in Spain which leaves it up to people to register with the province if they don't want to donate their organs.
He also acknowledged there is a need for public education.
The province commissioned a panel of citizens to study the issue, and they released a report last year that found presumed consent makes most people uncomfortable and instead encouraged Ontario to recruit live donors to meet demand.
It suggested compensation for lost wages, travel and other expenses for people who donate a kidney or part of a liver.
Closer to home, a lot of the teens showed support for their classmate's campaign to get them thinking about organ and tissue donations.
I figure if I'm going to be dead, I won't need them, said Vanessa Tignanelli, 18.
I might as well help keep someone else alive.
“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