Like all American businesses, OneLegacy faced enormous challenges in the year just concluded as the pandemic caused a rethinking of how we could best serve the greater Los Angeles community and continue to tell the powerful story of donation and transplantation amidst the greatest national healthcare crisis in the past 100 years.

We approached the challenge with the simple belief that no pandemic is as powerful as the gift of life.  And since donation and transplantation is really more about life than it is about death, we felt compelled to assure that the generous act of donation would continue in earnest despite these very unsettling times.  

By rallying our community and healthcare partners and rethinking what was possible, OneLegacy was able to set an all-time record in lifesaving and healing organ donation and transplantation and once again lead the nation in deceased donor organ transplants. We also led in lung transplants and had a record setting year in heart transplants.  In addition, more than 190,000 lives were healed, and vision was restored through cornea and tissue donation; a number especially impressive given the COVID-caused ban on elective procedures.

Our community-focused efforts encompassed a wide assortment of innovative and “first time” components necessitated by the disconcerting environment in which we were forced to live.  These included:

• Turning our annual Run/Walk event into one of the country’s first virtual events of its kind.  More than 2,500 participants representing 33 U.S. states, 11 countries and seven continents registered online to be part of our event and nearly 10,000 people tuned into Facebook and YouTube.  Later this month – April 24 – we will once again be holding this event virtually and we invite everyone to join in raising money and awareness of the importance of donation. You can find out more about this event at donateliferunwalk.org.

• Launching a virtual Town Hall “Connecting the Dots” series, featuring guests of diverse backgrounds discussing organ donation and transplantation, particularly among communities of color. Through these Town Halls, which are continuing this year, we hope to bring heightened awareness of donation and transplantation in minority communities and by doing so bridge the gap between the demand for organ transplants and supply of donated organs. The Town Halls are just one of many community-based initiatives underway at OneLegacy to address the tremendous health disparities that exist, given that Los Angeles is home to the most diverse region in the nation boasting 185 distinct languages and cultures.  

• Not letting the absence of the 2021 Rose Parade derail our annual participation in the event, OneLegacy became the only organization to create a “float like” floral sculpture displayed on the grounds of the Tournament of Roses House in Pasadena.  With the recent announcement that the parade will return next year, our Donate Life float will again be part of the Rose Parade experience in 2022.

We know that our work cannot be done alone, which is why we are so proud to be part of the ever-pulsating Los Angeles business community.  Recently we partnered with Zeta Phi Beta and LifeStream Blood Bank at a local hospital to encourage blood donation and, at the same time, register people to be organ and tissue donors.  We are also working with the Young Visionaries Leadership Academy to offer free meals and essential household supplies to families in need.  And just last month, through our Donate Life Hollywood program, we partnered with CBS-television’s B-Positive show to produce a public service announcement encouraging people to register to be a living kidney donor.

The opportunity to donate an organ and tissue or to receive a lifesaving transplant knows no sexual orientation and has no national, racial, ethnic, age or religious boundaries.  That is why we invite other organizations throughout the greater Los Angeles area to join us in our efforts. Together we can help create a healthier community through the generous gift of life, a powerful action that recognizes the full human equality in all Americans and is dedicated to simply helping those in greatest need.    

Tom Mone is chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based OneLegacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in seven counties in Southern California. Learn more at onelegacy.org.

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