By Tate Luckey

It was 20 years ago that a University of Kentucky student was donated a liver from a West Virginian, saving her life and inspiring her to start Donate Life KY. The importance of that act to her could not be understated to her.

“A lot of times, people think ‘Oh, this sort of scenario can’t happen to me’ but she’s living proof,” Crysta McGee, Donate Life Ky’s marketing and communications manager said.

This past November marked the 21st year of the Gift of Life College Challenge, a rivalry between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky to register as many organ donors as they could campus-wide. U of L handily won the competition, registering over 400 individuals compared to UK’s 75-100. A big help came from athletics- men’s basketball coach Kenny Payne tweeted about the drive and that was more than enough of a boost to the cause. U of L Health and events with the NPHC played a big role, too.

“We had the same sorts of meetings, worked with both transplant centers; but U of L took it to athletics, and that was what did it,” McGee said.

A trophy is set to be awarded to the University during the Battle of the Bluegrass men’s basketball game on Dec. 31.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, their primary focus was peer education. It has since shifted to both education and registration.

Of those on the national waitlist, which is currently over 100,000 people, 85% are in need of a kidney. The next most commonly needed organs include the liver and heart.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, too- whether it’s a religious exception or due to the cause of death. We have information [on our site] that clears all of that up,” McGee said.

According to McGee, 40% of donors’ deaths are overdose related, meaning that the heart typically has a few complications for donation. Other organs and tissue are still donatable, however.

“Kids that age get it. They understand that it’s giving back, it’s their last act,” McGee said.

If you’d like to learn more and register, you can go to, or visit for more stats. 

Photo Courtesy // Donate Life KY //