Operation Kids Names the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) an ‘OK Charity’

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Children's Organ Transplant Association to co-brand with other of Operation Kids' OK Charities. Operation Kids will fundraise for Children's Organ Transplant Association.

Operation Kids has named the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) an “OK Charity”(TM). This means Operation Kids has been through the books and operations of COTA and found it efficient in its operations, effective in its programs, and worthy of the public’s and Operation Kids’ support. It also means Operation Kids will add COTA to the list of OK Charities for which it fundraises.

COTA, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana joins other OK Charities including the National McGruff House Network, Christmas Box House, The Forever Young Foundation, and Best Buddies.

“This is one of those partnerships that makes sense on every single level,” says Rick Lofgren, president of the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. “It offers the endorsement of a third party, plus Operation Kids helps to raise money to better support our mission and programs.”

Certainly the mission of COTA is vital. Every fourteen minutes, another American is added to the organ transplant waiting list, and today, more than 80,000 are awaiting an organ transplant. Thousands more are on the bone marrow registry. In the United States alone, sixteen people die each day awaiting their transplant. Because inclusion on the transplant lists requires proof of payment in advance, many more die before they even make it onto the waiting list.

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association was founded to help individuals and families raise the funds necessary to meet the costs of transplantation for the most vulnerable among us; our children. For those children with limited insurance coverage, and especially those with no coverage, COTA is literally a lifesaver.

Othello Smith of Jacksonville, Florida is one example of the good work COTA does. Othello was born with a rare condition called gastroschisis, meaning his intestines were outside of his body. Surgeons removed his entire small intestine and the majority of his colon and sent him home with little hope of celebrating his first birthday.

“We decided that this was not to be Othello's death sentence,” remembers his mother Jennifer Gifford. “There had to be some other answer. We searched the Internet and asked questions of Othello’s doctors. We learned of a program in Miami, Florida at Jackson Memorial that could give Othello a second chance at life.”

At five-months-old he was evaluated for transplant, and following testing, it was determined that Othello would need a multi-visceral transplant… a new stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas and small intestine.

“As we waited for the transplant, we realized there was more to the transplant than just a surgery.” The costs for transplant are astronomical and insurance would not cover everything for Othello.

The family contacted the Children’s Organ Transplant Association and was given the stepping-stones to start fundraising for Othello’s surgery.

“Othello was moved to the transplant center on April 5, and just four days later we received the call we had been waiting for Othello went home just two days before his first birthday; a day we never thought would come!," Jennifer says.

Today, Othello looks like a normal healthy 2-year-old boy, big round eyes and a face that is 99.9 percent cheeks. “My son is enjoying life,” Jennifer says. “COTA helps make miracles happen.”

“Our mission is to help the ‘Whole Child,’” says Kent Norton, CEO of Operation Kids. “You don’t have to read many headlines these days to that there is a crisis of children’s health care. Thousands of children like Othello, children who know better than most of us the value of each day, are on the transplant lists waiting an organ or bone marrow transplant. And COTA has a strong education campaign to get the word out about the need for organ donors. But there’s a greater tragedy still and that is the unfortunate kids who will die before they even get on the transplant list.”

In the arrangement, Operation Kids will “co-brand” with COTA. COTA will receive the OK Seal of Approval, a designation that means Operation Kids has been through its books and operations of NSFF and found it to be “OK,” that is, efficient in its operations and effective in its programs.

Operation Kids supports OK Charities in large measure by fundraising on their behalf.

Operation Kids specializes in national fundraising activities that have a strong media component and are meant to augment the charity’s efforts rather than replace them.

Operation Kids conducts a number of fundraising strategies including the Operation Kids Lifetime Achievement Award, the OK Kids paper icon campaign, and OK Athlete of the Week/Year, planned giving, and cause marketing and other corporate fundraising strategies.

“Answering the phone in my office is a roller coaster of emotion,” commented COTA President Rick Lofgren. “It’s always uplifting to hear the joyous news that a young life has been saved as a result of an organ transplant. It’s equally heartbreaking to hear the desperation of a young family whose child’s life depends on finding and funding an organ transplant. Through our partnership with Operation Kids, we will make a positive impact on the lives of the children we serve across the country.”

About COTA: The Children's Organ Transplant Association is a 501(c)(3) national charity dedicated to providing fundraising assistance for children and young adults who need life-saving transplants and promotes organ, marrow and tissue donation. These two fundamental purposes drive all of our activities. Since our founding in 1986, the organization has assisted nearly 800 patients throughout the country who required a life-saving organ or bone marrow/stem cell transplant. A hallmark of the organization is that 100% of funds donated for a patient are used to pay transplant-expenses.

About Operation Kids: Operation Kids is a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to serve the needs of the Whole Child… their education, safety, environment, health, welfare and well being… by supporting a diverse group of effective and deserving children’s charities with funds and other resources. Operation Kids reviews the operational efficiency and program effectiveness of noteworthy charities. Charities that serve children and which meet its stringent proprietary criteria are branded with the OK mark, and are deemed eligible to receive funds and other resources from Operation Kids’ fundraising efforts.

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Paul Jones