Monday, February 27, 2012

The Sheepdog's 500th Post = The BIG Announcement

Today is the day. Back in August, I first mentioned the new "project" I was working on. That was six short months ago. I shared the "project" with friends and family at my five-year heart transplant anniversary party on Saturday. It's now time for me to make the formal announcement here on The Sheepdog. The time for talking is over. The time for doing starts now.

Over the course of the last two years, I've done a lot of praying and seeking of the Lord's direction in my life. I knew He had something in mind for me to do - something important that would make a difference, but I just couldn't figure out what that was. I took a real hard look at getting into politics and even worked on the campaign of a friend, Tennessee State Representative Susan Lynn, in order to learn about how to run a campaign. My plan at that time was to gain as much knowledge and experience as I could from her, and then, maybe give politics a successful go at some point in the future depending on various factors. However, one day back in July of last year, the Lord made it very clear to me that He had a much more important work than politics for me to do, at least for the time being. It's pure and will make a more lasting difference than politics ever could.

So, after much, much prayer, and 6 months of planning, I am excited to announce the creation and launch of the Tennessee Organ Donation Foundation, Inc. (TODF) It is the first and only non-profit agency in Tennessee founded by and exclusively managed by members of the organ and tissue donation community. In fact, in order to be eligible to serve as a member of TODF's Board, you must be a transplant recipient, donor family member, or living donor. I set TODF up this way to help insure that advancing the cause of organ and tissue donation would always be its number one priority.

TODF has but one goal – ending the needless dying of 19 Americans everyday simply because of a lack of organ donors. We aim to accomplish this by improving public awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation through increased public education in Tennessee. Our plan is to attend various events in Middle Tennessee communities speaking to the public and distributing information about organ and tissue donation and how to register as a donor. At some point in the future, we want to begin a program where we provide financial assistance to transplant recipients that are unable to afford their anti-rejection medications. Why ? Well, we know that sometimes recipients are unable to take their meds as required because they can’t afford them. I know from experience how expensive they are. Not taking them can lead to rejection and the loss of a transplant and even your life. The ones that survive sometimes have to be re-transplanted draining the pool of donated organs which is already a limited resource. If we can prevent this from happening, there will be more donated organs to go around, additional lives can be saved, and transplant recipients in financial difficulty will be better able to take care of their "gifts of life" and live their "second chances" to the fullest.

When I made the decision to form this new organization, I also knew I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed some folks to assist me who were as dedicated to the cause as I am. I asked the Lord to show me who He wanted to serve alongside me, and He did. I decided to go with a three member Board of Directors. In addition to myself serving as a Board Member and Executive Director, I am joined on the Board by George Blank who is a living kidney donor. George will also serve as Associate Executive Director and Secretary. Our other Board Member will also serve as our Treasurer. Her name is Doris Gray, and she is a donor mom.

Once I had the Board in place, I was missing one more important piece of the "all volunteer" team. I knew we needed someone to coordinate and manage a team of volunteers since volunteers will conduct the vast majority of our activities. Most non-profits use volunteers for that purpose, and we will be no different. However, I felt it was important to have someone on board as a Volunteer Coordinator who had experience in putting together and managing Volunteers. I knew immediately who to offer the position to - a wonderful lady named Misty Armour. Misty is not a transplant recipient, living donor, or donor family member, but she believes in the importance of organ and tissue donation just as much as any of us. She is also a very talented singer / songwriter, and she will do a heck of a job for us.

We are looking forward to this new endeavor. It will give myself and the rest of our team a wonderful opportunity to go into our communities, network, make new friends, make a lasting difference, and accomplish our objective of  "Saving and Improving Lives in Tennessee ... and Beyond." It's gonna be neat to see what is accomplished and to see what the future holds.

I want to take a moment to dedicate the work that TODF will do to the memory of Kent Fuson (my donor), Tommy Gray (Doris' son), and all the other donors and their families across our great country. You have saved and changed the lives of many, including mine. You have paved the way. Now, it's our turn to "pay it forward." We will not let you down.

So, there it is - the "project." Time to get to work. Be sure to visit The Sheepdog here next Monday. I've got a special Music Monday planned. You're gonna love it.
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