RICHMOND, Va., June 25, 2012 – Tom Gano of Cherry Hill, N.J. has received the 2012 National Donor Memorial Award of Excellence for his outstanding volunteer efforts in promoting organ and tissue donation. The award was presented during the June board meeting of United Network for Organ Donation (UNOS) in Richmond, where UNOS is headquartered.
“The work of Tom and other volunteers like him is truly lifesaving,” commented Walter K. Graham, executive director of UNOS. “In sharing their personal stories, they help educate the public about the organ and tissue donation process, and inspire others to say yes to donation. They are powerful advocates for the transplant community.” Mr. Gano’s 16-year-old son, Curtis, became an organ and tissue donor in July 1987. Within two years of Curtis’ donation, Mr. Gano became an avid spokesman for the mission.
For more than 23 years, Mr. Gano has been a volunteer for Gift of Life Donor Program based in Philadelphia, which nominated Mr. Gano for the award. Since its inception in 1999, he has been a member of Hearts of Gold, an organization for donor family members. Mr. Gano and his wife, Vivian, helped found Hearts of Gold’s peer counseling for newly bereaved donor families. He has a wonderful gift for sharing his story, connecting with others and encouraging them to volunteer.
Mr. Gano also serves as the chairman of the Southern New Jersey Coalition’s education committee, which he helped form in 2000. Since then, he has dedicated himself to high school outreach by contacting schools, arranging programs and coordinating volunteers to present. To date, Mr. Gano has coordinated school programs for 106,000 students.
He knows that a handful of students that he has shared his story with have become organ and tissue donors. On February 15 (Curtis’ birthday), Mr. Gano gave a school presentation, during which he was told a 17-year-old senior at the school became an organ donor following an automobile accident, saving eight lives.
“I had spoken to the student two years ago, when he was in drivers ed class,” Mr. Gano recalled. “In all likelihood, he told his parents of his desire to be an organ donor in the event of a tragedy and that is why he became a donor.”“Tom is a tireless advocate for donors, recipients and those awaiting life-saving transplants,” noted Howard M. Nathan, president and chief executive officer of Gift of Life. “It is impossible to know the full extent of the impact he has had over these many years – but it is definitely vast.”
The National Donor Memorial Award of Excellence was established in 2010 to recognize exceptional advocates for organ and tissue donation, especially “unsung heroes” who have not received recognition at a national level. Nominations for the award were sought from all 58 organ procurement organizations in the United States. For this year’s award, 33 nominations from around the country were received.