On Monday, Sept. 23, the Sportsmen’s Tavern will host the One8Fifty Benefit for Organ Donation, featuring a performance by The Hayden Fogle Band. Proceeds from the event will go to support local non-profit group One8Fifty, whose mission is to increase awareness around organ donation and provide support to individuals and families going through the transplant process.
The message behind the organization’s name is a powerful one – ONE donor can provide up to EIGHT life-saving organs and can provide 50 other individuals with tissue donation. Which drives home the point that every single person who signs up to become an organ donor makes a very significant live-saving impact.
The sad reality, according to One8Fifty’s founder and executive director, Thomas Jasinski Jr., is that New York State is ranked one of the last in the nation in terms of how many residents are registered to be organ donors.
“Approximately 9,500 people in New York State are waiting for an organ transplant,” Jasinski said. “Over 400 New York State residents will die this year because the organs they need are not currently available, while an equal number will have become too ill while waiting to remain viable patients for transplant. It’s not because New York State residents don’t care – it’s because they don’t know.”
Jasinski’s mission in founding and growing the One8Fifty organization was to spread awareness to inspire more New York State residents to register as organ donors – taking them from intent to actual consent. “We can stimulate conversation and encourage people to speak about organ donation while they’re still living,” Jasinski said. “We try to take that pressure off the situation and dispel a lot of the myths associated with organ donation.”
The organization’s story truly begins with Jasinski’s story. In 2010, shortly after getting married, for unknown reasons Jasinski suddenly went into end stage renal failure. He immediately began dialysis treatments and his name was added to the national transplant list through ECMC here in Buffalo and the Cleveland Clinic for a kidney transplant. At the time, the wait for finding a match could have been as long as ten years out and being on dialysis, Jasinski didn’t have that kind of time left.
During a series of routine tests as part of the transplant process, Jasinski’s doctors also found that he needed triple bypass surgery to clear blocked arteries around his heart. Interestingly enough, if he hadn’t been undergoing routine testing as a transplant candidate, they may have never discovered the blockages and he could have suffered a catastrophic heart attack.
After his bypass surgery, Jasinski and his wife, Ginny, traveled to Sonoma California to be with family and decompress. A visit from Ginny’s cousin Paul and his wife Janet evolved into a conversation about his condition. Right then and there, Paul and Janet offered to be tested as kidney donors. Paul was a match and became Tom’s kidney donor.
“It’s a very altruistic gift,” Jasinski said. “My wife’s cousin, who I barely know – I had met him in passing at a couple of family functions and a few years later the guy is giving me his kidney. You could say I’ve had a series of unfortunate good things happen to me.”
So five years ago, Jasinski started One8Fifty as a way to pay it forward. “I believe in karma, so part of my commitment to the people who stepped up for me on my behalf was to start an organization to inspire other people to register as donors and get involved in this cause.”
One of the organization’s primary objectives is to be there for families who are facing transplant right now – physically and emotionally holding their hands as they move through an unfamiliar and frightening process. “It means something for them to see someone ‘on the other side’ and understand that people can and do get through these things,” Jasinski said.
For those considering signing up to be a donor, One8Fifty provides a wealth of information about the realities of organ donation and how close each of us truly are to the transplant process. “The thought processes are jaded by mistruths and I want people to know the facts,” Jasinski said. “I can live with anyone’s personal decision, but I can’t live with them making a decision based on inaccurate information.”
For example, Jasinski notes, many are unaware that cancer patients are still eligible to donate their corneas to help others see. And that infants who are just weeks old can become organ donors.
“I read an article about a woman who was carrying a child that they knew would not survive over a few weeks,” Jasinski said. “She decided to carry the baby to term to use the organs for other children in need.”
Jasinski is a living testament to the impact that a single organ donor can have another person, their family, and a community. “I’m incredibly grateful to be here for my wife, who is the strongest person I’ve ever met,” he said. “And to be able to roll around on the floor with my grandchildren instead of being a picture on the wall for them to look at. Now I’m able to be there for other people who are facing that same life or death scenario.”
Local guitar prodigy Hayden Fogle, who will be headlining the benefit event, also has a living connection to the cause as one of his family members donated an organ to another. Fogle began playing guitar at 8 years old and by age 12 he was on stage with Buddy Guy at the UB Center for the Arts playing to a sold out crowd. Since then he’s played with blues greats including James Cotton and Robert Randolph and played some of the top music festivals locally and internationally. His hope is to use his musical following to rally support for One8Fifty’s cause. “Music is a great way to bring people together and bringing awareness to this cause is a positive impact that I can make as a musician,” Fogle said. “Organ donation is the ultimate sacrifice you can make for your family.”
Bassist Dave Herr who performed with a different band at One8Fifty’s first benefit, also has a personal connection to the cause. “I had been playing bass with Hayden’s band and got the call for that date,” Herr said. “I don’t think Tom Jasinski knew it at the time, but in my family we have two organ donors and one recipient! I donated a kidney to my daughter in 1991. That lasted her 23 years, until my son donated to her in 2014. She is now doing better than ever.”
Herr will sit in with Fogle again at this year’s benefit, which also features performances by Sue Kincaid and Doug Yeomans. The event will take place on Monday, September 23 from 5:30-8:30PM at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, located at 326 Amherst Street in Buffalo. Admission is $20 and all proceeds go to support the One8Fifty organization. Tickets can be purchased here.
For more information on One8Fifty and its mission, visit their website.