On the Beat: Organ donation bill, helping wildfire victims, quilting group

Trying to follow the wealth of news that comes out of the State Legislature goes beyond the scope of a small community news operation, but I’ve become interested in a bill that originated with a Crescent Valley student and has been introduced by Rep. Dan Rayfield during this legislative session as House Bill 3234.

After passing the House last month on a 46-10 vote, it went to the Senate Committee on Education this past Wednesday.

House Bill 3234 creates standards for organ donation education in Oregon high schools. Rayfield, who is the legislation’s chief sponsor, worked with a student to create the policy concept.

Nisha Sridhar, a Crescent Valley High School graduate who is now at the University of Oregon, got the ball rolling.

“I was approached by Nisha in 2015 about this concept and I was immediately compelled because of the potential this policy has to impact Oregonians for generations,” Rayfield said. “Some of the legislature’s best ideas start with community members.”

Rayfield (D-Corvallis) hosts an 11-week paid program called the Willamette Valley Legislative Fellowship, which gives local college and high school students opportunities to gain both campaign and policy experience. The program occurs during election years.

Fellows are given the opportunity to work in small groups to develop a policy proposal of their choosing. At the end of the program, the groups present their policies to lawmakers and a winner is selected.

Philomath High graduate Jack Lehman was part of a winning idea introduced in 2019 that proposed the implementation of a statewide plastic bag ban.

To demonstrate the efficacy of the organ donation curriculum, a pilot project was implemented in Crescent Valley’s Health 1 class during the “Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs” unit. Students who participated had a more accurate understanding of organ donation as well as more positive attitudes toward becoming a donor.

“When I first started this process back in my high school health class, I found that my classmates were more open to becoming organ donors once they learned about the process,” Sridhar said. “I hope that more Oregonians will be able to receive organ transplants now because of this education.”

CVHS health teacher Sheila Fowler submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Education.

“The curriculum used in our pilot program was well received by the students,” Fowler said. “They had a few misconceptions that they were curious about which were resolved by the curriculum we used. Those questions included who can sign up to be listed as a donor, who makes the final decision to remove organs and at what point, and whether organ donation is condoned by religion.”

Since Health 1 is a freshman-level class, Fowler said “these students were able to receive that instruction prior to obtaining a license or learner’s permit.” In addition, she said several students reported back that the curriculum was a catalyst for positive family discussions.

The committee received testimony against the bill from Elizabeth Turner, a resident of The Dalles, who asked if the curriculum was “conditioning for abortion and selling body parts” and added that it is not a topic to be taught in schools.

“When we are old enough to drive we have an option to decide if we want to participate,” she said. “That decision will be made by family and the driver. That’s where it should stay.”

Numbers cited by Rayfield’s office reported that more than 800 people in Oregon are waiting for an organ transplant but in 2019, only 128 donations were made.

Jessica McLennan, Eli McLennan and Lily Schell
From left, Cowgirl 911 volunteers Jessica McLennan, Eli McLennan and Lily Schell are all smiles (Abby Loyd not pictured). The Philomath youth earned special recognition for their work during last year’s wildfires. (Photo submitted by Laura Schell)

‘Youth Hero’ award to locals

Four Philomath youth received deserved recognition recently for the time and effort they put in during the 2020 wildfires. Eli McLennan and Lily Schell, both Philomath High seniors, along with Abby Loyd, a sophomore, and Jessica McLennan, a seventh grader, were recipients of a 2020 Cowgirl 911 Youth Hero award.

Cowgirl 911 is an organization established in 2020 by Katie Schrock to help animals and livestock threatened by the fires in western Oregon. They were cared for at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Our local kids helped daily during that period when the evacuations were going on and then after things calmed down, they stayed on to assist in the following weeks during the cleanup.

Congrats on a nice job to Eli, Lily, Abby and Jessica.

Group accepting donation
The Power of 100 People Who Care group donated $10,400 to Quilts from Caring Hands. (Photo courtesy of The Power of 100 People Who Care)

Donation to quilting group

The Quilts from Caring Hands nonprofit organization that meets at the Philomath Scout Lodge received a $10,400 donation on May 5 from The Power of 100 People Who Care group.

Quilts from Caring Hands, founded in 1990, makes and gives quilts to children in need, including those who are homeless, in foster care, visually impaired, abused or experiencing mental health issues.

The Power of 100 People Who Care group exists to give local nonprofit organizations greater visibility and to stimulate $10,000 in giving every quarter.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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