In light of minority donor awareness month, Peoria recipient encourages registration

Health News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Ethnic minorities make up nearly 60% of the people waiting for lifesaving organs, but only a third of registered donors according to Gift of Hope an Illinois based donor network. Spanning the month of August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month (NMDAM).
The not-for-profit organ procurement organization said there’s a critical need of minority registered donors.

“1,450 African Americans on the waiting list,” said Marion Shuck, director of family services and community outreach with Gift of Hope. “We have 800 Hispanic Americans on the waiting list and about 240 Asian Americans on the list.”

For a local Peorian, the importance of organ donation hits close to home. Monday marked Shay Weldy’s three year “transplant-versary.” The Peorian basketball coach found herself in heart failure dating back to 2008.

“My heart was functioning around 10-15%,” said Shay Weldy. “Around that time is when doctors were telling me my heart was weak. I was pretty much the walking dead.”

After years of medications, in 2016 Weldy found herself faced with the news of needing a new heart. She was placed on a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) until a donor’s heart became available the following year.

“I barely had time to process because it was flowing,” said Weldy. “Everything was going. It was time, but I was ready.”

Weldy said she honors her donors life daily while also advocating for others to register.

“Someone became an organ donor and saved my life,” said Weldy. “So I encourage organ donation within the minority community, so they can save someone else’s.”

Gift of Hope encourages ethnic minorities to consider moving past a mistrust of the healthcare system.

“Modern medicine has changed in the last 60 years since the Tuskegee Syphilis incident and so trust your health care professionals,” said Shuck. “If you don’t like your healthcare professionals, get new ones, but really be mindful of your health.”

While sharing the same ethnicity is not a deciding factor in donation, the success of transplants increases when the donor and recipient are of the same ethnicity or racial group. That’s because compatible blood types and tissue markers – which are more likely to be found among people of the same ethnicity and race – decrease the risk of organ rejection. Genetic makeup is especially important in matching donated kidneys. For these patients, the lack of available organs means longer waiting periods on transplant lists, more time spent on dialysis, and sometimes death.

“Registering as an organ and tissue donor is an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and offer hope for life to endure,” said Marion Shuck, director of family services and community outreach for Gift of Hope. “During National Minority Donor Awareness Month, not only do we highlight the need for minority donors, we recognize and celebrate the lifesaving contributions of minority organ and tissue donors, their families, minority transplant recipients, and the healthcare professionals who enable the gift of hope through donation and transplantation.”

During NMDAM, Gift of Hope is encouraging minority groups to make a difference by taking four easy steps to help save lives:

  • Register today at to become an organ and tissue donor or text COMMIT to 51555
  • Have the donation conversation with friends and family
  • Become an Ambassador for Hope volunteer
  • Say “yes” to organ and tissue donation on behalf of a loved one

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is a not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) that coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides public education on donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana. As one of 58 OPOs that make up the nation’s donation system, we work with 180 hospitals and serve 12 million people in our donation service area. Since 1986, we have saved the lives of more than 23,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients through our efforts.

Minority Organ and Tissue Donation

  • Nearly 60% of people waiting for lifesaving organs are minorities. On the transplant list in Illinois are 1,450 African Americans, 800 Hispanic Americans, and 240 Asian Americans.
  • Ethnic minorities make up only 33% of registered donors in the U.S.
  • Critical qualities for donor and recipient matching are more likely to be found in members of the same ethnicity.
  • A greater diversity of donors may increase access to minorities waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.

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