State organ donation fund could be named for Keyes |

State organ donation fund could be named for Keyes

John Keyes, center, holds up his daughter Emily's drivers license to show that she was an organ donor as he and his wife Ellen, left, testify before a Senate Committee on a bill to promote the state's donor registry at the state Capitol in Denver, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007. The sponsor of the bill Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, is seated at right. Emily Keyes is the 16-year-old girl who was killed by a gunman last fall at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER – A fund to encourage people to become organ donors could be named after Emily Keyes, the 16-year-old shot by a gunman last fall at Platte Canyon High School.A Senate committee Wednesday tentatively approved a plan to continue the program for another 10 years and name it in Keyes’ honor after hearing from her parents. The proposal (Senate Bill 37) now heads to the full Senate for a vote.Spurred by a cousin who had received a heart valve and her own research and conversations with her family, Emily Keyes decided to become an organ donor when she received her driver’s learner’s permit four months before the shooting. Her corneas later helped a man regain his sight.

“That is the definition of bittersweet,” Emily’s father, John-Michael Keyes, said following the hearing. “Here I am in a conversation with a man who can see and the reason he can see is because of my daughter.”He said he wasn’t asking for everyone to rush out and become an organ donor, just to start talking about it. Ellen Stoddard-Keyes said their home is one where everything is discussed – from stem cell research to French politics. They said the family talked about organ donation too and Emily, a member of her school’s speech and debate team, did her own research before agreeing to put the red heart on her learner’s permit, which they passed around the committee table.So when she was given the donation paperwork at the hospital after Emily’s death, Stoddard-Keyes said it was a moment of “clarity” for her.

“We were able to look at each other and say ‘Yes’,” she said, wearing a pink ribbon reading “Random Acts of Kindness for Emily” on her lapel.Since 1998, the state has asked driver’s license applicants if they would like to donate $1 or more to the Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Fund to promote the state’s donor registry. Since then the percentage of people agreeing to become donors has risen from 33 to 60 percent.The fund, due to expire in 2008, took in $326,400 last year.

Bill sponsor Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, who suggested the fund be named for Emily Keyes, said there are nearly 2,000 now waiting for an organ donation in Colorado.”One donor could save the lives of up to eight people. One tissue donor could enhance the lives of up to 100 people,” he said.

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