Secretary of State promotes Donate Life Month

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, as she kicked off Donate Life Month with leaders of Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank, pledged strong new measures to encourage Michigan residents to sign up to be organ and tissue donors.

Michigan ranks near the bottom of the country in organ donation registrations. Less than one-third of the state’s adult population has registered with the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.“With 3,000 people on the waiting list for organs, this is a matter of life and death,” said Johnson. “This demands a new approach, a new way of thinking. We can and will do better. I would encourage every Michigan resident to sign up as a potential donor. You can save lives. You can make a difference.”

Johnson spoke during a morning news conference at the Oakland County SUPER!Center in Pontiac to kick off Donate Life Month, held in April to promote organ and tissue donation.

Johnson was joined by several donor families and recipients, including Rick Johnson of Auburn Hills, whose 8-year-old daughter, Alexis died in a tragic playground accident. Her heart was donated, saving the life of a young Maryland boy. The Secretary also honored Jerry Leismer, of Waterford, a liver recipient who volunteers his time to visit Secretary of State branch offices to personally promote organ donor registration.

As part of the Secretary of State’s new “Restart the Heart” campaign: Johnson has brought together physicians, lawmakers and some of the most respected organ donation leaders in the state as part of an advisory committee to come up with innovative, yet cost-effective approaches to promote organ donation.

Organ donation reminders are being added to some of the most widely distributed forms and applications at Secretary of State offices.

A new checklist will greet branch office visitors that will ask them if they want to become organ donors.

Information will be provided to staff about some of the most commonly asked questions regarding organ donation.

Activities to promote Donate Life Month have been expanded.

Also speaking at Monday’s news conference was Richard Pietroski, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization.

“Organ, tissue and eye donation begins with the donor registry,” said Pietroski. “Every person has the power to be a hero by documenting their decision to help others through donation. For most, it may be the only opportunity they have to save someone’s life. What an incredible legacy of generosity.”

Lisa Langley, Executive Director for the Michigan Eye-Bank, said more than 1,000 Michigan residents had their sight restored last year, thanks to the compassion of eye donors and their families.

“The Eye-Bank is grateful to Secretary Johnson and to each Secretary of State office staff member for helping our residents understand the importance of joining the Michigan Organ Donor Registry,” Langley said. “Through our partnership, we can restore sight to more people every year.”

Last year in Michigan, 790 organ transplant operations were performed. Each organ donor has the potential to save eight lives and enhance the lives of as many as 50 patients. There is no age limit to become a donor.

Efforts to promote organ, tissue and eye donation began on Tuesday, April 12 when Secretary of State offices across Michigan open their doors for Secretary of State “Buddy Day.” Buddies, who are often organ or tissue recipients or their family members will help answer questions and encourage residents to add their names to the Donor Registry. This effort is coordinated by Gift of Life Michigan, the Michigan Eye-Bank, and Lions Club. They will be at SUPER!Centers and PLUS offices 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., then again from 2 to 5 p.m. Buddies will be at regular branch offices from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To find a branch office near you, visit for the branch office


Johnson noted that anyone who is interested may also sign up at the Secretary of State website at Those who sign up will receive a red heart sticker for the front of their license or state ID card.

A newly designed Michigan driver’s license, which began being issued this month, will signify registered donors with a permanent red heart on the front of their license. Signing the back of your driver’s license no longer enrolls residents in the Donor Registry.

Gift of Life Michigan is the state’s certified, full-service organ recovery organization. Contact the agency at (800) 482-4881 or The Michigan Eye-Bank recovers, evaluates and distributes corneas for transplantation, supports eye and vision research and offers public and professional education on the importance of eye, organ and tissue donation. To learn more, call (800) 247-7250 or visit

For more information about organ donation and the Secretary of State’s Office, visit its website ( Sign up for the official Twitter feed ( and Facebook updates (

A list of the Secretary of State branch offices that are hosting a Buddy on Tuesday, April 12 is available on the Department of State website at