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CKF: An Intern’s Perspective

Storey Balko is CKF’s summer intern through the month of July. Storey has been a huge help with event planning, social media, and general administrative tasks. She wrote an article for the CKF blog about her experience as an intern and what she learned while working with CKF over the course of the last month.

Over the past month, I have interned with the Chris Klug Foundation (CKF). When I applied to be an intern, I had no idea what to expect. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know that much about the organization. Sure, I had visited their website and was somewhat familiar with Chris Klug’s story (after all, he is my neighbor and he’s pretty well known in our town of Aspen). That being said, I was also fairly naive towards the concept of organ donation in general before this experience.

On my first day, the Executive Director of the foundation, Lauren Pierce, showed me the ropes and outlined my duties as an intern. However, she also sought to educate me about organ and tissue donation. From her, I learned that there are only a few ways a person can actually be an organ donor after passing. A person can donate their organs only if they are brain dead, meaning they have completely lost all brain activity and must rely on life support to keep their basic bodily functions going, like breathing and heartbeat. This typically only ever happens in the event of an accident, such as a car crash. However, that wasn’t the only fact about organ donation that surprised me. Lauren continued to explain that, when someone dies in a way that allows them to donate their organs, their family members actually make the final decision to donate their organs or not. It doesn’t matter if the driver’s license of the deceased specifies that they are registered as an organ donor. Since most people who are eligible for organ donation have just passed away in an unexpected accident, there usually isn’t enough time to discern these logistics and the doctors often don’t know whether these patients are organ donors. So, it is imperative, if you decide to register as an organ donor, to have a conversation about your decision after doing so. Otherwise, they may not be aware of your wishes.

Lauren wasn’t the only one who taught me something new. CC Cunningham, the Program Manager for CKF, also taught some skills related to CKF’s social media platform. Now, I’m a teenager, so I’m definitely well-acquainted with social media. However, CC showed me how to utilize social media in a new, more professional way. Apparently, there are various strategies for boosting a nonprofit organization’s visibility on social media and increasing engagement with individual posts. This is important for professional marketing purposes, as today’s culture relies heavily on social media.

During my short time as an intern with CKF, I was able to attend an event with the CKF team. Lauren, CC, Chris, and I visited Basalt Elementary School in our neighboring town of Basalt, CO to talk to children, from first to fourth grade, about organ donation. Lauren brought plush toys resembling organs and played a game similar to “Operation” with the kids. She then introduced Chris who told his liver transplant story and shared his experience of competing in the Olympics post-transplant. The children had so many questions and were very excited to “meet someone famous” (as one kid had energetically exclaimed after discovering Chris was an Olympian).

After the presentation, while Chris was signing the kids’ T-shirts, a woman approached Lauren and me. She explained that she is a health teacher and asked if we had anything for teachers to utilize in their own classrooms as a way of educating their students about organ donation. Lauren enthusiastically told her about CKF’s free online curriculum, specifically designed for teachers, called Toolkit for Teachers (T4T), that teaches young people about organ and tissue donation and gives them the tools to make an informed decision when it comes time for them to register as organ donors. It was very interesting to me to not only see how inspired the kids were after hearing Chris’ story but also how it affected the adults in the room too. The health teacher who Lauren spoke to is a perfect example. It was amazing that someone, after listening to a quick 30-minute presentation, would be so inspired to help support CKF’s mission, which is to increase organ donor registration.

It’s my last day working with CKF and I have learned so much since I first started. Even though my internship was short, I feel rewarded from my time at this organization. CKF supports a wonderful cause and I feel as though I have contributed in my own way in furthering their cause. Overall, this has been a great experience and I will continue to spread awareness of organ and tissue donation now that my internship is over.

Thank you so much, Storey, for dedicating a month of your summer to work with us here at CKF and helping us raise awareness on behalf of organ and tissue donation!

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