BJU is participating in National Donate Life month in April by holding Donate Life Week, a weeklong campaign on campus to raise awareness of the impact of organ donors.
BJU’s Donate Life Week, April 5-9, included donor drives to give students the opportunity to sign up to become a donor. A ceremony took place on Wednesday in which Dr. Steve Pettit, BJU president, passed the “Torch of Life,” an Olympic-style torch bearing the names of donors, to Margaret Stegall, a BJU alumna and living donor.
Stegall decided to donate a portion of her liver to a fellow BJU alumna after seeing a Facebook post on the BJU alumni page. Her story appeared on several local news platforms, including WYFF and the Greenville Journal. On April 16, BJU will host a moment of honor for donors which will be observed by Health Sciences students.
This year has been the first for BJU’s participation in the Donate Life celebration, in part due to Stegall’s story, according to Ian Dyke, the public education coordinator for We Are Sharing Hope SC and the BJU alumnus who coordinated BJU’s Donate Life Week.
Dyke, a 2019 BJU graduate, said Stegall’s story inspired BJU’s participation in Donate Life Week. “I knew that because of Margaret, this was really fresh in the campus consciousness,” Dyke said. “It’s an amazing story, and it’s a story that [BJU] has really been at the heart of.”
BJU’s Donate Life Week was a smaller part of National Donate Life month in April celebrated by Donate Life America, a nonprofit whose goal is to increase donations of organs, eyes and tissues as well as to educate on the need for donations. This larger brand links several nonprofits dedicated to donation, including Donate Life South Carolina, which handles organ donor registrations, and We Are Sharing Hope, which handles the clinical operations of donation procedures, according to Dyke.
Jessica Teruel, a senior journalism and mass communication major and president of the University Marketing Association, worked with Dyke on organizing the event at BJU. Teruel said the campaign was designed to show BJU support for organ, eye and tissue donation, but honoring Stegall’s donation became a focal point. “The timing could not be better to honor her through this,” Teruel said. According to Teruel, Stegall’s story communicates the need and benefits of donation effectively. “We really want to light a fire in students’ hearts to realize being a donor now is extremely important,” she said.
“We really want to light a fire in students’ hearts to realize being a donor now is extremely important.” -Jessica Teruel
Randy Page, BJU’s chief of staff, also said the timing for BJU’s participation in Donate Life Week is perfect. “If there’s a year for us to get involved, this really seems like an opportune time to be able to highlight what our alumni are doing for our alumni,” Page said.
The campaign was personal to BJU students, Page said, because alumni networking made it possible for Stegall to donate, as well as for Dyke, another BJU alumnus, to reconnect with BJU for this year’s celebration. “It really is an alumni story,” Page said.
According to Page, many people possibly say no to donation because it’s the easier option when they have no understanding of what it is, how to do it or the good that can come from it. Through the personal connections of this campaign, Page said, that negative view could change for BJU students.
But according to Dyke, the choice to approach BJU also came from COVID-19 and the University’s community influence. “We’ve had to kind of shake things up because of COVID,” Dyke said. Usually, the Donate Life celebration can directly engage the public, according to Dyke. When COVID-19 limited the options for public interaction, the organization decided to bring their message to community leaders who can spread awareness of the need for donations. “We’re going to different organizations that have a thread in the fabric of South Carolina’s culture,” Dyke said. “We’re hoping that’ll reach the community and show this is not something for this group of people, this is something all South Carolinians benefit from.”
Judah Smith, a premed senior and men’s student body president, connected the Student Leadership Council with the UMA to launch the campaign. Smith said donation is a community issue—which is why Donate Life chose to reach out to community leaders. “We are a leader in the community, and people recognize that,” Smith said. “By reaching our students, Donate Life recognizes that they can ›› From DONATE p. 1 make a lasting impact in the community and other communities as our students go out from here.”
And for the BJU community, Smith said, donation is a prominent topic. “Because of our very strong Health Sciences program, [discussing] issues like this is very effective because we have an audience that’s hungry to learn more,” Smith said.