Three years ago, Ryan Omenski’s aunt was given 90 days to live. The doctors said that she would not survive unless she received a kidney. Her aunt’s family scrambled to find out as much information as possible. They began communication with the Alabama Organ Center, where Ryan’s aunt was put on a waiting list. On October 5th, after an unfortunate accident involving a boy from Mobile, organ donation made a kidney and pancreas available for Ryan’s aunt and saved her life.
Since that time, Ryan’s aunt has devoted her life to teaching people about organ donation. She also sparked a fire in Ryan, who has also dedicated her life to volunteering and educating the public about organ donation. Ryan wants the state and national community to be informed about the organ donation process so no family will have to endure the fear and uncertainty that her family did.
When Ryan began college in August of 2002, she began two projects entitled “Project Aware” which involves adults, and “Project Share” which involves children. She attends Alabama Rotary, Optimist, and Kiwanis meetings as well as college events, Organ Donor Awareness meetings and luncheons speaking out about the importance of organ donation. She also visits high schools and has candid discussions with students, telling them about how to become a donor. When speaking to elementary school children through Project Share, Ryan brings a large cloth doll that has removable organs! She reads the children a book about the organ donation process and teaches them the different organs in the body. Her focus is to teach the children that organ donation is sharing a very special gift with someone, and she hopes the children will go home and discuss it with their parents.
Not only does Ryan speak to adults and children about organ donation, she also raises money for the Alabama Organ Center (AOC). The AOC is partially funded by the government; however it is in dire need of money. Currently, Ryan is preparing for a fundraiser to be held in February of 2004. This project will be a dinner and raffle for South Alabama, where she recently won a Miss Alabama Preliminary. She looks at the Miss America Program as another way to reach out into the community and share the message. It has been a wonderful springboard for public speaking events as well as fundraising events. Her goal is to raise $3,000 at the event.
Ryan has also been asked to be a full-time volunteer during the month of January 2004 at the AOC. During that month she will be invited to view an actual transplant as it takes place, travel on public speaking events with the coordinators of the AOC, continue her public education project, and work on fundraising for the AOC.