Walkers in this year’s Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival are being encouraged to mark Organ Donation Week by helping raise funds and awareness for an organ donation charity founded by a local transplant survivor.
Tyrone man Aaron Smyth founded his organ donation awareness campaign after his own successful transplant operation in October 2016 where he became the first adult from Northern Ireland to receive a live liver transplant.
His charity aims to raise funds for Kings Hospital London, the RVH Liver Support Group and organ donation awareness group Live Life Give Life who played a supporting role in his life changing procedure.
A group of employees from Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival hosts Derry City and Strabane District Council, led by Aaron’s mum Jean Smyth, plan to complete a walk at the event on the weekend of Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September in aid of the charity but all walkers at the festival and the wider public are being encouraged to get involved.
Speaking at this week’s launch, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh urged people to play an active role in heightening the profile of the campaign on social media.
“I am delighted that Council are able to play a supporting role in Aaron’s campaign to heighten the issue of organ donation in the public’s consciousness and help organisations who offer lifesaving support to those in need of transplants.
“This is a great opportunity, through the Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival, to get involved and highlight the campaign and offer people the opportunity to add their name to the NHS Organ Donor Register.
“Even if you aren’t taking part in the walking festival, you can get involved and raise awareness on social media now by posting your pictures with the heart in hand gesture when you are out walking.”
Aaron Smyth was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, which causes inflammation of the lining of the large intestine, at the age of 14 and led to a chronic liver disease that necessitated transplant surgery.
After discovering that a living donor donation, where part of a donor’s liver is removed and transplanted into the recipient and allowed to grow back to full size, was an option his cousin Robert was found to be a an exact match for the procedure and agreed to undergo the operation that changed his life.
At any given point there could be up to 600 people waiting for a liver transplant in the UK where three people die every day waiting on an organ transplant list.
To post your heart in hand gesture walking images on social media, tag @sperrinskilleterwalking using the hashtags #YesIDonate #sperrinskilleterwalking.
You can donate to Aaron Smyth’s organ donation fund now at www.gofundme.com/aaron-smyth.
Organ Donation Week runs from September 4th – 11th. There are many ways to register as a potential donor: online at www.organdonation.nhs.uk or www.organdonation.ni.info, when applying for or renewing a driving licence, when registering with a G.P Practice or when applying for a Boot’s Advantage Card. You can also telephone the N.H.S. Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23. Telephone lines are open 24 hours a day all year round or download a form from www.organdonation.nhs.uk, print it and return it by Freepost as instructed.