By Josh Gargiulo
Tony Petitti surely would have felt pride at the ceremony on the Athens County Courthouse steps Friday morning, when Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl recognized Petitti's daughter, Ohio University student Maranda Saling, for her work promoting organ and tissue donations.
In August 2005, freshman journalism major Saling lost her father, an organ and tissue donor. Since then, she's made it her mission to engage others in discussions about the importance of donating, a simple act that has the power to save up to eight lives or help up to 50 people in other ways, according to the group's Web site.
"I feel that speaking about the issue and encouraging people to become donors is the best way to honor his memory," said Saling.
Saling is just one of several Ohio University students taking part in the statewide "Do It Now" Donate Life Ohio campaign. The campaign calls on college students to register more than 13,000 new organ donors.
Thirteen universities in Ohio are participating in the Do It Now initiative. Share-Your-Heart is the name of Ohio University's team, a project of the university's student-run public relations firm ImPRessions.
"Although I joined this group for different reasons than some of my teammates, I can tell you that they are just as passionate about this cause as I am," said Saling, who is a member of ImPRessions.
When Share-Your-Heart approached Wiehl to help raise awareness about organ and tissue donation, the discussion led to the proclamation of Friday, April 25, as the official Organ Donation Awareness Day.
Members of the community also came out to support the group's efforts. Cynthia Tindongan, a kidney donor from Albany, Ohio, was in attendance and said she still is humbled by the importance of the act.
"The recipient's life has been extended because of a decision I made."
And if Wiehl is any measure, the ImPRessions team message is getting through.
"I didn't know a whole lot about donation before hand," Wiehl said, but he started doing research on organ donation shortly after speaking with the students and may become a donor.
"It is important to raise awareness, and I'm glad I can do my part," he said.