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Four years ago Ashley Madaus, a senior at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, was told her father needed a new kidney. For three years after that announcement, Ashley’s father, Mel Madaus, and his family waited.

“The waiting was a complete guessing game,” Ashley said. “We never knew what was going to happen, and I was never truly at peace at school because it was always on my mind.”

On July 9, 2007, Mel received a kidney from a complete stranger in Idaho.

“It was honestly the best gift ever given to him and my family,” Ashley said. “No words can describe how grateful I am that a person halfway across the country donated his or her organ. To think what the power of family communication can do is unbelievable.”

More than 4,000 Wisconsinites like Mel will be placed on an organ donor waiting list this year — hoping, wishing and waiting for the chance to live.

With this in mind and fueled by her personal experience with organ donation, Ashley, who serves as the vice president of the UW Oshkosh chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), will use her background in journalism and public relations to get the word out about organ donation.

On April 5, PRSSA will hold a free, one-mile “Use Your Feet; Keep Your Family Up to Beat” run/walk for organ donor awareness. Registration for the event will begin at 10 a.m. in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, 735 Pearl Ave. Pre-registration will be available from 11:30-1 p.m. April 1 through 4 in Reeve Memorial Union, 748 Algoma Blvd.

At the event, walkers and runners will have from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to trek along a one-mile path beside the Fox River while learning about the benefits of organ donation. Participants also will be entertained by local rock band Infinity Theory, provided with food and beverages, compliments of Big Apple Bagel and Festival Foods, and given free T-shirts from PRSSA.

Individuals and families personally affected by organ donation will share their stories throughout the event, including former Miss Oshkosh Desiree Geffers.

This run/walk will be held in conjunction with PRSSA’s involvement in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition (NODAC), an annual nationwide competition sponsored by Rowan University in New Jersey that focuses on raising awareness about organ donation and the process of becoming an organ donor on college campuses.

“As a team we get together to plan a day of events promoting organ donor awareness,” Ashley said of the competition. “When it’s over, we analyze how well everything went and then put together an entry, which includes all our research, pictures, posters and press releases and send it to Rowan University. Then they award first place to the school that did the best job.”

Ashley participated on the 2007 NODAC team, which won first place for its successfully communicated message to “not leave your loved ones in the dark” when it comes to your wishes regarding organ donation. Last year’s event featured a dance in Reeve Memorial Union’s Titan Underground.

“We had a good event last year, but I want to make it even better this year and get the word out that donation is truly a miracle,” Ashley said. “If a person passes away, they can still live in so many other ways. Now someone is living through my dad.”

For more information on this event, visit the PRSSA Web site by clicking here.

To read testimonials written by individuals affected by organ donation, visit PRSSA’s blog