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Jesse White joins Chicago Police Superintendent Veteran Investigative Reporter and Religious Leaders for National Donor Sabbath

                 Renee Ferguson urges donation after husband dies waiting for transplant; Priest also encourages donation

Secretary of State Jesse White joined kidney recipient Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson, veteran investigative reporter Renee Ferguson and local faith leaders to recognize National Donor Sabbath, an interfaith campaign aimed at educating religious communities about organ/tissue donation.

Ferguson was the first female African-American investigative reporter on Chicago TV. This year she lost her husband, publisher Ken Smikle, because a donor heart was not available. Ferguson recently recorded a 60-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) to encourage others to register to become organ/tissue donors “to give others life.” An additional PSA was created in English and Spanish featuring Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines. Father Sanchez reaffirms the fact that most major religions consider donation “a life-giving and charitable act.”

“We recognize Donor Sabbath to raise awareness in faith communities because people often believe that their religion doesn’t approve of donation,” White explained. “We want to dispel this myth since the majority of religions support and respect this act of generosity. Each year, 300 people die in Illinois, like Renee’s husband, because of a shortage of organs. We want to make sure organs are available and that means registering to become a donor.”

During the weekend of Nov. 9-11, faith communities in Illinois and across the country recognize National Donor Sabbath. Faith leaders and congregations participate in services and events to increase awareness of this vital program. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the majority of religious groups support organ and tissue donation including Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and Judaism.

Kelly Roberts and the Rev. David Potete of Northwest Community Church in Chicago attended the event. Rev. Potete donated a kidney to Roberts and spoke about his donor experience.

“One of the core values of our church is servanthood or serving others,” Rev. Potete said. “I can’t tell you how good it felt to help a friend.”

The PSAs were submitted to approximately 100 radio stations statewide to further heighten awareness to the program. They are also featured on the state’s organ/tissue donor website at

Currently, more than 114,623 people are waiting for organs nationally. In Illinois, despite a registry of more than 6.5 million, approximately 4,700 people are on the waiting list.

Other faith leaders and partners participating in National Donor Sabbath include Tracy Alston, First Ladies Initiative; Rev. Anthony McPherson, Mid-America Transplant Service; Eversight; and Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network.

For more information on organ/tissue donation or to register to become a donor, visit, call the Secretary of State Organ/Tissue Donor Program at 1-800-210-2106 or visit a Driver Services facility.

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