Freeport High School students are recognized outside Town Hall last Thursday for their designs and messages promoting organ and tissue donation. From left are Matt Boger, New England Donor Services; Rep. Melanie Sachs, D-Freeport; Aynslie Decker, third place winner; Emma Barry, first place winner; Kaitlyn Sawicki, second place winner; Secretary of State Shenna Bellows; Judy Couture, organ recipient. Contibuted / New England Donor Services

Freeport High School students swept the Donate Life Maine High School Poster Contest this year, with three students taking first, second and third places.

The goal of the annual New England Donor Services contest is to encourage new drivers to register as organ donors with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Contributed / New England Donor Services

Emma Barry, Kaitlyn Sawicki and Aynslie Decker were honored for their first, second, and third place awards, respectively, outside Freeport Town Hall May 20. Also in attendance was organ donation recipient Judy Couture and Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who oversees the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

“It’s art for a good cause,” said Barry, a senior who is heading to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, this fall as an illustration major.

There are 6,707 people in New England on the organ recipient waiting list; among them are 203 Mainers in need of a kidney and others awaiting other organs or tissue, according to Matt Boger of New England Donor Services.

“Three percent of all deaths in the United States and locally occur where an organ can be used for a transplant,” Boger said.

Boger said of the Maine residents given the option to become donors, 57% say yes, and he hopes that number will increase.

“Anyone can become an organ donor at any age,” Boger said.

Contributed / New England Donor Services

The poster contest is part of that campaign.

Freeport High School art teacher Kimberley Medsker-Mehalic used the contest as a class assignment and challenged her students to design an image for it that was unrelated to organs.

“I live by the water and wanted to create a classic Maine scene,” said Barry, who placed second in the contest during her sophomore year. She used an iPad and an Apple pencil to digitally create her poster of a sailboat with the words “Be the wind in someone else’s sails, Consider Organ and Tissue Donation.”

Sawicki’s design, inscribed “Be the wave that carries someone’s life …” was based on a photo taken at Pemaquid Point.

“I was sort of inspired by the idea of the butterfly effect – that everything impacts everything,” Sawicki, a senior, said. “I thought I would visually relate to the ocean because while one wave may crash, another can be saved if the crashing wave is willing to give. We can all help each other by taking the simple step in signing up for organ and tissue donation.”

Decker, also a senior, could not be reached for comment.

Contributed / New England Donor Services

As the recipient of a donated liver, Couture, of Topsham, said he has a great appreciation for the students’ posters.

“The students did an awesome job, and to see people that young getting involved in this cause is great,” Couture said.

Couture has an Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic condition which either impacts the liver or the lungs. She said many of her relatives have died from liver-related illnesses.

Couture, now 62, said she became sick in 2015 and was put on the transplant list in 2017. She said she was fortunate to be on a waiting list for only 25 days, because she has heard of similarly afflicted people having to wait a year or two for an organ.

Couture received her transplant in Massachusetts because there is no liver transplant program in Maine. Soon after, she began volunteering with New England Donor Services to promote organ and tissue donor registration.

“I figured there was something I could do to give back,” she said.

“Last year alone, organ donation saved more than 28,000 lives,” said Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. “It is inspiring to see these students leading the way for the next generation, so we can continue this important program for years to come.

“I hope that when young people come to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and get their licenses for the first time that they sign up to be organ donors,” Bellows said.

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