Special to The Southern Gazette
BURIN BAY ARM, N.L. — When Amanda Duggan began planning a trot in honour of her late friend Justin Harding, she expected only a few dozen family and friends to attend.
But on July 6, roughly 100 people came out to the First Annual Burin Bay Arm, NL Transplant Trot to raise money for organ donation in memory of Harding.
“It’s overwhelming,” Duggan says of the turnout.
“I was blown away by the response and how many people showed up.”
Harding, 37, passed away on June 20, 2018 as the result of a head injury caused by an ATV accident. Harding’s organs were transplanted to five people awaiting donations.
Almost 80 runners ran 10 kilometres and raised $2,100, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Transplant Association Newfoundland Branch.
Duggan says she and others organized the trot to raise awareness concerning Canada’s low organ donation numbers.
“There is a massive need for organs to help people out. (Donating) gives somebody else the chance to live,” Duggan says.
According to The Organ Project, there are over 4,500 people waiting an average of four years for an organ donation in Canada. Of those waiting, 260 will die every year. While 90 per cent of Canadians support organ tissue and organ donation, in practice, less than 20 per cent have made plans to donate. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and tissue donors can benefit up to 75 individuals.
“People know about transplants, but they don’t understand the process of everything,” says Duggan.
For instance, the Government of Newfoundland’s website states that the Motor Registration Division “no longer records a driver’s intent to be an organ donor as part of a driver’s licence application or renewal. This information is now tracked by the health care system and residents can provide it when they renew their MCP card.”
In order to inform trot attendees and encourage donation, organizers provided organ donor information and MCP forms. Duggan says at least 10 participants signed MCP papers to be organ donors.
Two people who have benefited from organ donation also spoke at the trot.
One speaker, the father of a little girl who received a heart transplant, spoke of how organ donation saved his daughter’s life and thanked donors and their families for being selfless during their time of grief.
Harding’s cousin, Carla Brushett, described the speeches as “heart-touching.”
“It opened a lot of people’s eyes, I’m hoping. That little girl was able to be (at the trot because) somebody was willing to donate. Knowing that my cousin Justin was able to give that gift to five other people made me love him even more.”
Next year, she hopes for an even bigger trot and will continue to promote the benefits of organ donation.
Although the last year has been difficult for Harding’s family and friends, Harding’s mother, Glennys Harding-Philbert, says seeing so many people show their support was “simply amazing.”
“Justin is a hero because he gave someone the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. (His death) was the darkest day of our lives. But, it was filled with sunshine for many.”