Eugene Melnyk’s goal is to save more lives by ending the organ transplant wait list.
The Ottawa Senators owner launched the Organ Project at an inaugural gala at the Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday.
Melnyk received a liver transplant in May 2015, after an urgent public appeal.
“Every three days in Ontario, someone dies waiting,” he said in a news release.
“Sadly, this is the unfortunate reality across Canada, the U.S. and around the world. The good news is this is truly a solvable problem because we don’t need to find a cure for waiting.”
He likened changing people’s attitudes about organ donation to when seatbelts in vehicles were introduced.
“It took time, a change in laws, and a lot of public education to change our habits,” Melnyk said.
“Our goal is to make organ donation as normal and expected as wearing your seatbelt. Both save lives and both are a choice you can make and embrace.”
Melnyk said he and others have contributed more than $3 million to the initiative.
The Organ Project has three main thrusts to build awareness about the need for more organ donors:
* Educate about the “detrimental impact” of wait lists for organ transplants.
* Encourage people to donate their organs by signing up on the provincial registry.
* Ensure registered organ donors share their wishes with their family and friends.
“Ending the wait list isn’t like finding a cure to a disease,” said Melnyk.
“We all hold the solution to this problem and together we can save lives.
"This is about awareness and people being aware their decision to donate their organs could one day save up to eight lives."
Melnyk also announced the project’s inaugural gala to kick off Organ Donation Awareness Month in April. The “exclusive event” will be held at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto on March 31.
Country star Carrie Underwood – wife of former Senators player Mike Fisher, who now plays for Nashville – will perform at the event. Single tickets cost $1,500 and a table of 10 runs to $15,000.
Funds raised will be used to work “closely with other stakeholders, organizations and government agencies across North America to help identify possible solutions to other obstacles within the organ donation and transplant system,” according to a news release.
For more information on the Organ Project, visit theorganproject.net.