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[Dean Dennis/The Daily Pennsylvanian] College senior Hilary Ellis submits a mural application to the city on behalf of Penn Organ, a group that promotes donation awareness.

Eleven years ago, College senior Hilary Ellis did not expect that much good could come from her mother needing a lung transplant.

Nor did she know that her experience would prompt her to bring Students for Organ Donation -- a national organization that promotes donation awareness -- to Penn's campus.

Since the inception of the Penn chapter, called Penn Organ, in September, the issue of organ donation has gained momentum and attention among students.

Ellis said that about 100 students are listed as members of the organization.

Penn Organ co-founder and Wharton and College senior Molly Gallagher said that the group's most important responsibility is to raise awareness of the issue.

"Our major goal when we are on Locust Walk is to get people to think about it," Gallagher said.

They have also set out to bust common myths, such as that doctors may be less eager to save your life if they know you are willing to donate your organs.

But Penn Organ's message is not limited by the boundaries of campus.

"Philadelphia has the lowest occurrence of organ donors," Gallagher said.

The organization took its first step to increase awareness in Philadelphia yesterday, when Ellis submitted a mural request to the city. The design has yet to be decided, but Ellis says it would be interpretive of organ donation and would be painted by a local artist. Through the mural, she hopes to extend her efforts to West Philadelphia.

Howard Nathan is president of the Gift of Life Donor Program, which coordinates organ recovery and transplants in the region.

He says that 90,000 people across the nation and 4,600 people in the region are on the waiting list for donor organs such as kidneys and hearts. However, the lack of organ donors means that many on the waiting list will die. Nathan said that student-led initiatives, such as Penn Organ, may help to change this.

Students for Organ Donation was formed two years ago by Yale senior Richard Ludlow and his brother John. When a family member was wait-listed for a kidney transplant, the brothers realized that lack of awareness partially accounted for the few available donor organs.

Over the last two years, the organization has grown to encompass 55 university chapters and 13 high school chapters in Canada and the United States.

"No college student should go through college without learning the importance of organ donation," Ludlow said. "For me, the decision is easy. I don't need my organs when I am dead."

But Chief of Transplant Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Abraham Shaked has a slightly different take on the matter. He said that organ donation represents a fundamental responsibility owed to others in a society.

"Students should not just think of themselves, but of others around them," Shaked said.

In the meantime, Ellis is planning a rally in April of next year, coinciding with her organization's National Student Donate Life Week.

"You don't need your body after you are gone. Why not recycle it?" she said.

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