Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network Named Recipient of 30th Annual Gift of Life Award
July 30, 2015
Gift of Life Gala Celebrates 30 Years of Making History
Kevin Cmunt, President/CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, recently named himself one of the ‘crazy ones’ who thinks the wait list for organ donations can end. This claim is backed by remarkable advancements in the past years of the organization’s research studies and community affairs projects.
Gift of Hope, recipient of the 30th Annual Gift of Life Award and Presenting Sponsor of the 30th Annual Gift of Life Gala, is the organ procurement organization (OPO) that serves Illinois and northwestern Indiana. Gift of Hope fulfills three purposes in its service area: the deliverance of public education, management of the deaths and imminent deaths that occur in the 185 hospitals in its service area, and placement of organs with proper recipients. In short: they work to save and enhance the lives of as many people as possible through organ and tissue donation.
In 2014, Gift of Hope placed 1,024 lifesaving organs with recipients, and this year the organization is on track to place 1,100 organs. Almost half of these (around 500) will be kidneys.
“The most important thing we’ve done is increased donations,” Kevin states. “Our organ donation numbers are up by 40 percent in the last two and a half years. We’re transplanting 1,100 organs from our baseline of 800 back in 2012.”
This growth rate is much more rapid than it has ever been. In 1986, the year Gift of Hope was founded (then known as the Regional Organ Bank of Illinois), and one year after the Gift of Life Gala was born, there were only 302 organs transplanted in Illinois, 206 of which were kidneys.
However, there is more work to be done. The need for a kidney transplant in Illinois is still nine times greater than the supply, with more than 4,500 individuals currently waiting for a kidney transplant.
Each year, Gift of Hope collaborates with the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois to increase the number of successfully transplanted organs through disease prevention, education and awareness programs. Gift of Hope also sponsors research fellowships at University of Chicago Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center and other centers.
Gift of Hope’s commitment to recipients continues long after transplant surgery takes place. “We are co-sponsoring, with the University of Illinois at Chicago, a unique exercise and healthy lifestyle clinical trial,” Kevin said. "Early results from the initial 50 participants finds lifestyle improvements have great potential to improve transplant outcomes, which is exciting.”
In addition, Gift of Hope conducts internal research projects as well, utilizing its HLA laboratory and the expertise of Martin Jendrisak, MD., Gift of Hope medical director, to investigate donor management techniques that will lead to improving organ transplant outcomes and the number of organs transplanted.
“We are the leading OPO in the country for providing research organs and tissues. The biggest reason for this is we have great research institutions here in Chicago that work on things like islet cells and pancreatic diseases.” Kevin said. “Basically, if we have an organ that’s not transplantable, we’re placing it somewhere for research.”
For these successes and incredible advancements in the fields of kidney disease and transplantation, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network will receive the 30th Annual Gift of Life Award on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at the 30th Annual Gift of Life Gala held at the Field Museum of Natural History, hosted by National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.
Since 1986, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network has been providing the gift of life to people throughout Illinois, working with hospitals and advocates to save and enhance the lives of as many people as possible through organ and tissue donation. Join us in honoring them and their ongoing promise of hope. Visit www.nkfi.org to learn more.
Kevin Cmunt, President/CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Network
About the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois
The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois improves the health and well-being of people at risk for and affected by kidney disease through prevention, education and empowerment.