The next time you go to get your license renewed, you could be asked if you would like to contribute $1 or more to “The Emily Maureen Ellen Keyes Fund,” formally known as the Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Fund.
The state senate health and human services committee began the process to reauthorize the Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Fund on Jan. 17. Sen. Peter Groff also suggested amending Senate Bill 37 to be called “The Emily Maureen Ellen Keyes Fund.”
Keyes was just 16 years old when she was shot and killed during a standoff at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey in September of last year.
Her death made local news, but her decision to donate reached as far as North Carolina. Julius Britto, a 62-year-old retired New York City police officer from Wilmington, N.C., lost much of his vision due to cornea edema – a disease that significantly decreases a person’s ability to see. Britto was given Keyes’ right cornea. A Florida man was given her left cornea.
“(The fund) will work exactly the same way as it has done in the past,” said Jon Pushkin, spokesperson for the Donor Awareness Council. “The name is being changed in honor of Emily, in recognition of her decision to become a donor.”
Since the fund began 10 years ago, donor registration has nearly doubled in Colorado. Last year the fund raised $326,400, which it uses to provide activities to promote organ and tissue donation such as the “Say Yes” campaign at driver’s license offices, donor registry drives and a partnership with Bonfils Blood Center.
However, some are wondering whether the change in name could affect the impact of the organization.
“I think it takes a little away from what they are trying to accomplish,” said Ben Jefka, a junior environmental communications major. “I don’t know what I’m donating to if I give money to the Keyes Fund versus giving to the Organ and Tissue Awareness Fund.”
Jefka said people should know exactly what they are giving money to, and shouldn’t be confused about whether they are donating to increase security at schools or to promote donor awareness.
“Sure it’s great that she did what she did, but I don’t associate her name with that cause,” said Jefka.
Keyes’ donations could help around 100 men and women through skin, bone, muscle and heart valve donations, according to Donor Alliance, a non-profit organization that assists in the recovery and donation of organs and tissues in Colorado and Wyoming.
Keyes’ organs were unavailable for donation due to a mandatory autopsy.