The percentage of registered organ donors in Windsor has increased by six points since 2012, but the city remains below the Ontario average.
The list of Windsor donors grew from 16 per cent of the population in April 2012 to 22 per cent at the end of September, the latest numbers released Thursday by the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network show.
Meanwhile, Ontario as a whole reached 26 per cent, which accounts for more than 3 million registered organ donors in the province. Windsor has 52,274 individuals registered.
“We just have to continue to act. The reality is the majority of Ontarians support donation, but we need people to go from supporting the cause to taking action by registering,” said Paula Schmidt, Trillium’s southwestern Ontario development coordinator.
At a news conference at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Schmidt said anyone can visit www.beadonor.ca or a Service Ontario centre to register. She also said people who carry the signed paper donor card are no longer officially registered.
The towns of Essex and Amherstburg have the highest registration rates in the region, with both at 31 per cent. Kingsville reached 27 per cent, while Leamington registered the lowest number in the county at 21 per cent.
Essex County, which www.beadonor.ca classifies as Pelee Island, and several amalgamated communities in Lakeshore, Tecumseh, Kingsville and Essex, reached 29 per cent.
Individual numbers for Lakeshore, LaSalle and Tecumseh are not listed on the website.
Judith and Gunther Funkenhauser, whose son’s organs were used to save three lives upon his death, said the increase is a good sign, but it’s still not high enough.
“I still think people aren’t aware,” Judith said. “Even us ourselves, when Trevor passed away and they asked us about being a donor, we weren’t aware, so I think we have to make more people aware beforehand.”
The Funkenhausers have organized a golf tournament for that last six years to raise awareness and have a computer available for participants to register as donors. They also have three active billboards in the area demonstrating the lives which can be saved through donation. Gunther said they will expand this initiative next year after getting a hold of more donor families.
Another initiative is being introduced to Hotel-Dieu by Const. Lindsey Fleming of the Windsor Police Service and Chantelle Foreman-Meadows, whose cystic fibrosis-fighting friend currently requires a transplant.
The two took a discontinued idea from retired Const. Don Brown to have members of the WPS buy special calendars and use the proceeds to promote organ and tissue donation. The funds resulted in eight new brochure holders for organ donation at Hotel-Dieu, as well as others at both campuses of Windsor Regional Hospital.
“(My friend) Holly keeps a positive outlook, but the time is coming,” said Foreman-Meadows, an auxiliary police officer. “She needs that transplant, but without our help and our work in the community, she would not have any hope. But because of our work and our advocacy, she continues to pray for that donor.”
Schmidt said another goal is to dispel the misconception that Christianity is the only religion which supports organ donation.
Gopal Kataria, director of the CanAsia Foundation, practices Sikhism, but said organ donation is “a cause for humanity by the humanity. That’s what I believe in.”
Kataria said his organization is planning a new campaign similar to the ice bucket challenge for ALS.
“This is a family, grass-roots initiative and that’s why those numbers are moving up slowly, but surely, because of compelling advocates,” said Bill Marra, Ward 8 councillor and vice president of planning and development at Hotel-Dieu.
“Every little bit has made a significant difference.”