Throughout February, employees at Utah’s Driver License Division offices throughout the state have been sporting shirts that are aimed to encourage patrons to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.

The message for 2021 is: “Smile if you checked yes to organ, eye and tissue donation.”

Employees from the division and officials from Donor Connect held a press conference this week to express the important role the division plays in organ donation.

“I appreciate them participating again this year in our T-shirt campaign,” said Dixie Madsen, public relations manager at Donor Connect. “When you walk into a driver’s license office on the days they are designated to wear those, it’s noticeable. You walk in and say, ‘Hey, these guys are not wearing their usual uniforms.’ In addition to the T-shirt campaign, some of the driver license offices have banners promoting organ donation, some of them have TV screens with a PowerPoint promoting organ donation, they have brochures, they have pens, they have information to help people who come in to find the resources needed to make a decision about donation.”

While many driver license offices were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, offices in the Beehive State stayed busy serving Utahns.

A few weeks ago, Donor Connect announced that Utah saw a record number of organ, eye and tissue donors in 2020. Also, a record number of people checked “yes” on their driver’s license or ID card. In 2019, 60.49% of people said yes and in 2020 that number rose to 62.29%.

Travis Schmidt, the executive director of Donor Connect, added that over 95% of the people who register as organ donors do so through their driver’s license.

“I am really grateful for this year’s T-shirt campaign, and I’d like to set a little foundation for that,” said Chris Caras, the Utah Department of Public Safety’s director for the Driver License Division. “There’s a prolific quote online, it says, ‘Just because a person smiles all the time, doesn’t mean their life is perfect. That smile is a symbol of hope and strength.’”

Referencing the 2021 T-shirt message about smiling for signing up for organ donation, Caras said, “We’re encouraging you to wear that smile, give that hope and that strength to those who need exactly that.”

That hope Caras mentioned on the shirt was a hope for extended life, an improved quality of life or a hope for healing. The strength is because many often feel frail or alone in their circumstances of waiting for a transplant.

This is what the program offers, according to Caras, and it is why the division is so proud to be involved in it.

“I would say that the response we get is very positive,” Caras said. “There are good questions that come up at the counter. Some of the questions are in relation to whether or not it is just limited to major organs, or if other tissue is involved, and it’s exciting to be a part of it. I think we appreciate being a part of the conversation to at least help a person make an educated decision. I think there are a lot of myths about it, and I think we are just excited to have a role in it.”

He added that the employees love the shirts while also enjoying the opportunity to be a part of the program. Another bonus for employees is the chance to dress casually every so often, something Caras said the employees enjoy as well.

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