National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is still two weeks away, but things got off to an early start on Monday in Winnipeg.
Grammy Award-winning musician and producer David Foster helped bring people together at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to talk about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor.
Only one to two per cent of Manitobans are currently registered as donors, according to the province's numbers from 2011. The numbers aren't much better elsewhere, Foster said, adding there is no reason why more people in Manitoba shouldn't be on board with helping to save a life.
"I don't say that to shame you.... If it was 100 per cent, there would be no family that would ever have to wait for an organ donor," Foster said.
"This is a problem that can be solved — that's the frustrating part for us. Cancer is a beast; we know that. Heart disease is a beast."
- Cancer death risk higher for organ transplant patients
- Kidney transplants with living donors may not need match
The David Foster Foundation has helped raise millions of dollars for organ transplant causes across Canada, including more than $6 million in Toronto and more than $8 million in Calgary. Foster said he knows "Winnipeg is a great, giving city," and he hopes financial donors come forward to try and match those numbers.
'Sign Up for Life'
The event at the museum also marked the launch of Sign Up for Life, Transplant Manitoba's regional campaign to encourage Manitobans to get registered as donors.
"I'm very proud to say I have been an organ donor my entire adult life," Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said at the news conference, adding he chucked his old donor card this week and signed up online on Transplant Manitoba's website. "[I did it], if for no other reason, to prove when I'm gone that a lawyer-turned-politician does in fact have a heart.
"When I'm no longer needing these organs or tissues, they're going to help someone."
Bowman said donations from the David Foster Foundation have allowed some Manitoba families to travel out of province for expensive transplant treatments they couldn't otherwise afford.
Donations from the gala Monday night will help cover non-medical expenses for people in need of critical transplant procedures.
"There's a thousand great causes and every one of us in this room gets touched by one, and we're hoping that our cause moves you to help make this a successful night," Foster said.