The Sarnia Organ Donor Awareness Group (SODA) has good reason to celebrate.
The grassroots charity recently announced the lineup for its flagship fundraiser, Jazz & Blues in the Village, just as news broke that a record number of Ontario families saved lives last year through organ and tissue donation.
“These days, when we say SODA, people know what we’re talking about,” said Connie Ellis, a longtime member of the group established in 1994 to raise funds and awareness for organ and tissue donors and support local families.
“What’s even better is, we’re finding that at our events most people we talk to are already registered. It’s really catching on.”
In fact, the donor registration rate in Sarnia is about 44%, significantly higher than the provincial average (27%) and up from 37% in 2012.
Sarnia ranks 23rd out of 179 communities in Ontario.
There are 10 active registration drives based in Sarnia, through Beadonor.ca. They include 22-year-old transplant recipient Tara Bourque, ranked 5th in Ontario. She has recruited 1,075 ‘clicks to register’ on the site since 2012.
Last month, the Trillium Gift of Life released new data noting living and deceased donors helped save the lives of more than 1,200 transplant recipients in Ontario, and enhanced the lives of thousands more through tissue donation.
Still, some 1,500 people are currently on the waiting list for an organ in Ontario, and every three days someone dies waiting for a life-saving transplant.
“That’s why I’m involved with the cause,” said Ellis, also a transplant recipient. “It gave me years of life – 20 years in fact – that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
This year’s Jazz & Blues in the Village, now in its 12th year, will feature a parade of Sarnia-Lambton donor and recipient families as part of the opening ceremonies. The two-day event takes place Sept. 18 and 19 at McGibbon Park in Sarnia.
“What this event does, at least for those who attend the opening ceremonies, is, it puts a face to the cause. We are all about awareness, and getting people to register.”
Ellis said the success of the event is a result of dedicated volunteers and the fact that there’s nothing else quite like it.
“It’s just good, clean fun. You can bring your family, and get up close and personal with the entertainment,” she said, pointing to popular acts like Sarnia’s Johnny Bond and London’s Denise Pelley (both performing Saturday afternoon).
The event features its signature Friday Evening Blues (with opening ceremonies at 7 p.m.), Saturday Afternoon Jazz and Saturday Evening Blues. Other acts include Chuckee Zehr & the Crawdaddies, Erin McCallum, Hollywood: A Tribute to Michael Buble, the Stanley Brown Blues Band, and the Duke Robillard Band.
“Every year is different – you can’t control the weather, and you can’t control the artists,” said Ellis. “So our goal is always to do the absolute best we can.”
For more on organ donation, including how to register, visit www.beadonor.ca.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 12th annual Jazz & Blues in the Village
WHERE: McGibbon Park, Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre, 180 College Ave, N.
WHEN: Sept. 18 & 19
DETAILS: For full schedule, ticket prices, artist bios and more, visit www.jazzinthevillage.com.