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Shining a light on organ shortage

The torch relay is coming to Whitehorse, but there’s little likelihood of a protest.This torch is being ignited to call attention to…

The torch relay is coming to Whitehorse, but there’s little likelihood of a protest.

This torch is being ignited to call attention to Canada’s organ shortage.

On Monday morning, Whitehorse joins “hundreds of other communities” as a stopping point on the Student Torch Relay, a Canada-wide torch relay begun in October to raise awareness of organ donation.

The relay is an initiative of Step by Step, a charitable organization created by organ recipient George Marcello in 1997 to promote the importance of organ and tissue donations.

In 1995, Marcello was granted a life-saving liver transplant with only two days left to live.

“Canada has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world … we’ve been baffled by this,” said Marcello.

“Every day someone’s dying on (the organ donation) waiting list, and every day there’s hundreds of organs that are going to waste,” he said.

Commencing at 10 a.m. from Porter Creek Secondary School, a small delegation of students will carry the torch through downtown Whitehorse, and arrive at city hall at 11 a.m.

The torch has already visited communities in every province across Canada, and has gathered the voices of thousands of students in support of increased organ donation, said Marcello.

“Along the way we’ve been giving a tremendous amount of hope to those people that are on the waiting list because they’ve been hearing that we’ve been doing this, and we’ve literally been saving lives as well as more people become organ donors,” he said.

The Student Torch Relay is Step by Step’s sixth campaign.

Past initiatives have included a walk from Toronto to Ottawa and a European Tour to gather information on leading organ donor countries.

Step by Step estimates that the organs from one person can save up to eight lives and restore more than 30 others.

Currently, there are approximately 4,000 Canadians on the organ-donor waiting list.

The relay will finish on June 20 in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, contact the Organ Donation and Transplant Association of Canada at or at 1-866-949-0003.