If you happen to be at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and see what looks to be a race car, head on over and take a closer look. If you do, you'll likely have an opportunity to meet driver Joey Gase, who will be at Mayo Clinic to share a powerful personal message about organ donation.
As reported by NASCAR, Joey's experience with organ donation came suddenly, and unexpectedly, when his mother, Mary Jo, died of a brain aneurysm in April 2011. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that because Joey's mother was not married, it was up to the then 18-year-old high school student to decide if he wanted to donate his mother's organs. "It was something we never really talked about," Joey tells us. "Her driver's license had been left at home, and it was a decision that needed to be made pretty quickly."
Joey went with his gut, and with what he thought his mother would want him to do. "We knew if she could no longer continue her life that she'd want to do whatever she could to help others continue theirs," he says. "So we said yes to organ donation."
Joey tells us that he and the rest of his family were "shocked" to learn just how many people would be affected by that decision. "We found out that she had been able to help 66 different people," Joey says. "That was amazing to us."
It was that experience that inspires Joey to use his platform as a professional race car driver to promote organ donation whenever he can. That means making "appearances at hospitals and donor awareness-related events," being "featured as a member of the Donate Life float in the Festival of Roses Parade," and appearing "on ESPN multiple times" to talk about organ donation.
But Joey tells us there's something else that brings a lot of attention to his cause: he displays the logo of his primary sponsor, Donate Life, on his race car along with photos of organ donors, recipients and people on the national organ donation waiting list. "The photos really make people at the race tracks stop and ask questions," Joey says. "And that then gives us an opportunity to talk to them about organ donation."
At Mayo, Joey and his race car will be part of a special event that will give transplant patients, donor families, and the transplant team at Mayo the opportunity to put their handprints and short messages on his car. He'll proudly display them when he races in Phoenix International Raceway's Fall Race Weekend event Nov. 11–14. "I think we're going to have a really good turnout and a car full of handprints and messages," Joey tells us. "That's going to be awesome to see, and hopefully it will turn a lot of heads at the track that weekend and help us register more organ donors."
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