Never Too Early to Educate

Despite the fact that you now need to be 18-years-old to join Illinois’ new organ donor registry, it is still critically important to start educating youth on the issue at an early age. Mary Schlereth over at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois handles the majority of outreach to high school students for Donate Life Illinois. It’s always interesting to hear Mary recount the plethora of myths and misconceptions that are embedded in the minds of young ones about the issue, which is why we’re out there properly educating everyone on the topic. Last fall, I came across this quick video below shot by a student of Mary presenting to a driver’s ed class.

Along the same lines, there was a great story that ran in the Kane County Chronicle and Daily Herald today about elementary school principal Rebecca Dahn working with her staff to teach students about the importance of the issue. I’ve included the full story from the Kane County Chronicle below or you can visit here to see the Daily Herald story.

Some things worth wait


When Rebecca Dahn’s brother was 12, he got sick with a liver disorder that required a transplant.

David Yomtoob eventually got his transplant. He lived to graduate high school and college, get married, and have three children. He had another liver transplant at age 20, but did not survive a third and died in 2006.

Dahn, principal at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn, shared her brother’s story Wednesday during a fifth-grade assembly about organ donation.

The school’s students are participating in a contest sponsored by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to design a poster to promote organ donation.

“We have chosen to do this poster contest due to the fact that over 5,000 people in Illinois are waiting for a transplant,” Bonnie Whildin, an art teacher supervising the students’ poster art.

The fact that the school’s principal was touched by organ transplant only added to the importance of the issue.

Dahn’s mother, Parichehr Yomtoob and writer Ted Schwartz, wrote two books about the transplants, The Gift of Life for the successful transplant and The Gift of Life 2 after his second transplant. Both are available on She showed the students photos of her brother, healthy, then darkly sick with liver disease, then healthy-looking again after the successful transplants.

“He was just a normal kid like you,” Dahn said. “The transplant added about 25 years to his life.”

Dahn said she encourages organ donation as a way of educating people to become donors. The second time David became ill, he waited more than a year for a donated liver to become available.

Nearly 100,000 people are on a national waiting list for an organ donation – but every 11 minutes a name is added and every day 18 people die waiting, she said.

To further bring the issue home, organ donation has also touched the lives of her two secretaries: Jackie Moravik’s husband received a heart transplant in 1999 and Deb Johnson’s father received a kidney transplant in 2005. Both are doing well, the women said.

Dahn also noted that John Shields Elementary School Principal Shelley Hayes-Hueber donated a kidney to her nephew.

And a classroom aide, Denise Anthenat, 36, also relayed how her brother, Dennis Fuller, died in a car crash 10 years ago at 24 and donated his heart, pancreas, kidneys and corneas.

“We were very close,” Anthenat said. “It was very hard to lose him because we were 14 months apart. But it helps to know part of him lived on. He would have been happy knowing he helped so many people.”

Students said they got the message – and they hoped more people would consider being organ donors. Alexis Logan, 10, of Elburn said she would talk to her parents about becoming organ donors.

“People … are nice enough to give their organs to someone else,” said Julia Van Gemect, 10, of Elburn. “If you don’t make it – it’s bad.”

“I think a lot of people going to donate a lot of organs,” said Cody Bowgren, 11, of Maple Park.

More information about organ donation and the poster contest are available through the Illinois Organ and Tissue Donor Registry at

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One Response to Never Too Early to Educate

  1. Pat Dreher Wyland says:


    I just received a letter from your mom. She assumed that I knew about David. I am so sorry he was such a strong young man. I have fond memories of all of you.

    Pat Dreher Wyland(neighbor, babysitter)

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