Celebrating February 14th as National Donor Day

Published February 13, 2024 in Blog

While February 14 is most widely known as Valentine’s Day, it has an additional layer of significance in the organ, eye, and tissue donation community. February 14 also marks National Donor Day – an observance celebrating donors and loved ones who have given the gift of life, have received a donation, are currently waiting, or did not receive an organ in time.


The history of National Donor Day

Auto manufacturer, The Saturn Corporation, along with United Auto Workers, came together to begin the annual tradition known as National Donor Day in 1998. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services joined forces with these organizations and became key partners in the effort to raise awareness about organ donation in the United States. The U.S. Postal Service also released a specialty stamp dedicated to organ donation in 1998, on the heels of the first National Donor Day.


National Donor Day’s spokesman is an Olympic medalist and liver recipient 

Did you know that National Donor Day’s spokesman is an Olympic medalist and liver recipient?

Chris Klug, a professional snowboarder, spent six years on the organ transplant waiting list after discovering he needed a new liver at age 19. Suffering from the same rare liver disease that led to Walter Payton’s death, Klug was nearly out of time when he received the call saying a liver had become available. The donor was a 13-year-old Colorado boy who was tragically killed in an accidental shooting. The teen’s mother made the decision to donate her son’s organs, giving a second chance to a professional athlete who had been in critical condition for months. It changed everything for Klug. 

Chris Klug snowboarding at the the Olympics

Chris Klug at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Source:

"Think about it,” Klug said. “One day I'm on my deathbed, the next day I have a second chance with a new engine. After going through that, I've never really seen things the same. There isn't a day of riding or a turn on my board that I take for granted."

Just 18 months after his liver transplant, Klug won a bronze medal in the parallel giant slalom event at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. The endorsements soon followed, but there was one role that was particularly close to Klug’s heart. As the official spokesman for National Donor Day, Klug spent years promoting organ donation efforts, urging everyone to sign up to be a donor and potentially give those waiting for a transplant the second chance he’s so grateful he had. 

In 2003, Klug launched the Chris Klug Foundation to advocate for lifesaving organ, eye, and tissue donations, and to improve the quality of life for those touched by transplantation. CKF uses the stories of organ donors, transplant candidates, and transplant recipients to encourage individuals to give the gift of life and register as organ donors.


How can you participate in National Donor Day?

National Donor Day has gained momentum every year and is now celebrated throughout the country on February 14. Individuals may choose to celebrate National Donor Day in various ways:


The very best thing you can do to Celebrate National Donor Day this year is to sign up for the donor registry. In doing so, you will increase the chance that patients like Klug who are waiting for a miracle will get the transplants they need to survive.