2014 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Loni Wendt
Loni Wendt's daughter, Melissa, became an organ donor at the age of 16 following an automobile accident. It was only months later when Loni made it her personal mission to promote organ, tissue and eye donation.
For more than 10 years, Loni has been a tireless advocate for organ donation. She educates approximately 1,200 students each year about organ and tissue donation as part of their driver's education curriculum. Loni worked to build relationships with school systems and driving schools, and has educated kids about registering as organ donors when they get their driver's licenses.
In Wisconsin, teens must complete the initial portion of their driver's education classes prior to receiving even a temporary driver's permit, which, due to Kelly's Law, is the first opportunity that they have to legally register as organ, eye and tissue donors. With help from dedicated long-term volunteers like Loni, the donor designation rates in teens grew from approximately 50 percent to more than 70 percent, one of the nation's highest teen registration rates.
Loni has logged thousands of miles and hours, but keeps going.
"I want to spare another parent the pain of losing a child," said Loni, "and so many amazing things are being done with organ donation that can help save another's life."
"Melissa was proud to be a registered donor," said Loni. "She would be very proud of the improvements her legacy is creating now."
Loni also dedicates her time volunteering for a tissue bank, the Lion's Eye Bank of Wisconsin, as well as Donate Life Wisconsin, the state's donation collaborative. She spends the majority of her time speaking to high school students in various classes and during their driver's education classes and the instructors recognize Loni as a valuable partner in their educational efforts.
Loni's commitment to donation is deeply rooted in strong family ties. Her brother died suddenly when Loni was just 18 years old, and her mother died in 1999. Both were donors. Melissa proudly registered to be a donor when she got her first driver's license at age 16, and soon after she became the third generation in her family to become an organ, eye or tissue donor. Their gifts of life are enhanced by Loni's ongoing mission to share the life-saving message of donation.