by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
Cooper Pirtle wants you to consider signing up to be an organ donor.
The 14-year-old teen from Sturgeon County has been working half his life, raising awareness about the importance of organ donation. So when he recently joined a leadership competition with a travel company called EF Tours (in hopes of earning a trip to Vimy Ridge, France), he, of course, chose to do his community ambassador project on organ donation.
“I’ve been putting posters up around different communities and have made a presentation in my school,” said Cooper, who is in grade nine. “I’ve also had tables set up at hockey arenas and curling rinks with information about organ donation, and I designed a Tim Hortons [coffee] cup with an organ donation ribbon on it. I’m hoping Tim Hortons will notice it and consider using the cup for Organ Donation Month in April.”
Cooper’s Tim Hortons cup has been posted on social media; the teen said he is delighted each and every time the post is shared by someone. “Lots of my friends have been sharing it, which is really cool,” he remarked.
“People, especially people my age, don’t really think about organ donation, but it’s really important,” the teen added.
Cooper’s mom, Arla, described her son in an interview as an easy going guy, who is usually laid back and who wants to be an actor when he grows up. “I’m pretty sure both my kids are so passionate about organ donation because we have living proof that it works. My Dad—Cooper’s Grandpa—received a double lung transplant in 2011.” Pirtle said her father was 64-years-old at the time and was struggling to breath; she also confessed, at first, it was a hard sell for her dad to consider the idea of actually going through with a lung transplant.
At the end of the day, Pirtle said, luckily, her father did decide to go for it and, “now lives like he’s 50-years-old again and feels this attitude of gratitude.” Since both of her parents were so thankful for what the transplant has meant for their entire family, they (along with four other “cowboy” friends) decided to give back and organized a trail ride campaign called 2nd Chance Trail Ride; their initiative raises awareness and funds for organ donation.
Last year alone, 2nd Chance Trail Ride had 270 horseback and wagon riders during their trail ride, which follows the historic Iron Horse Trail from Lindbergh to Elk Point in Eastern Alberta.
“That assistance has turned around and supported back, so much so that now we’re in our sixth year of the trail ride and we’ve raised approx. $70,000 every year. We also maintain four apartments for other [transplant recipients] who are going through their recovery,” remarked Pirtle.
Whether Cooper wins the leadership competition or not, Pirtle said she is very proud of her son. While she said it would be great if Tim Hortons notices his cup, or if he wins the chance to travel, the most important thing is this: “I hope [Cooper] realizes his ideas can change the world. If one person decides to donate their organs, I believe he’s accomplished so much. I’m very proud and very fortunate to have such an empathic, enthusiastic and motivated kid.”
According to Alberta Health, there are more than 600 Albertans currently waiting for an organ transplant. The Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman said in a statement to the Morinville News, “we want Albertans to know that registering to be an organ and tissue donor is quick and easy, and it can help save up to eight lives.”
Hoffman also took note of Cooper’s quest, saying “[the Government of Alberta] is working to raise awareness, and I’m so thankful for young people like Cooper stepping up to help raise awareness as well.”
Albertans can register to be an organ and/or tissue donor online at myhealth.alberta.ca. More information about organ donation is also found on this website.