WOU in the news: Organ donation ‘is about life, not death’

Photo of Kelli Little.

Kelli Little graduated from high school at 16 and attended Western Oregon University. She bounced from pre-dental to business to pre-nursing, until she took a contemporary health issues class that changed her life. “I immediately changed my major to community health education,” Little said. “I knew this was my calling, and I’ve never looked back.” Today, Little is community services supervisor at the Nevada Donor Network.

Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?

The Nevada Donor Network team is now more than 120 people strong. We have almost doubled over the past several years. Providing hope and strength to those we serve makes it easy to connect with the mission. The culture keeps us engaged. I don’t mean the pingpong tables and free snacks. I mean the people who work together to find innovative solutions for saving and healing lives.

What are your duties as the community services supervisor?

I oversee a team that coordinates education and marketing efforts for the organization. My role is to ensure the team has the tools it needs to promote organ, eye and tissue donation. These education efforts take many forms, including our youth, DMV, multicultural and volunteer programs. We have the task of increasing the organ donor registration rate in Nevada, which is 43 percent.

Your organization leads the nation in lives saved per capita through organ, eye and tissue donation. What is the driving force behind that?

Our cultural transformation began in 2012. Once we refocused our people and passion, we saw record-breaking success each year that followed. We are humbled to facilitate lifesaving and healing transplants on behalf of heroic donors and their courageous families. We owe our gratitude to these heroes who make our mission possible.

What do you wish more people knew about your organization?

Organ, eye and tissue donation is about life, not death. I’m registered as an organ donor because someone else should get the chance to live when I’m gone. Being a registered donor will not affect my medical care, and it will not cost my family any money. Why wouldn’t I want to donate my organs and tissues when I don’t need them anymore? Why wouldn’t I give someone else the chance to live? I only promote things that I believe in with all my heart and am willing to do myself.

How did the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip affect NDN?

While there was not an impact on donations specifically, the chaos and heartbreak affected every member of this organization. The team pulled together to support our partners in their time of need and assisted however possible. Proceeds from this year’s annual awards gala support the first responders affected by the tragedy.

What has been your most exciting professional project?

I led Team Nevada at the 2014 Donate Life Transplant Games in Houston. At this biennial event, transplant recipients and living donors from across the country and the world compete in various activities, such as table tennis, swimming, and track and field, and they prove that transplants save and heal lives.

Our team of six athletes came home with 12 medals. The next Donate Life Transplant games are Aug. 2-7, in Salt Lake City, and we invite anyone interested in joining Team Nevada to visit nvdonor.org/teamNV.

What’s your favorite place to have fun in Las Vegas?

My 1-year-old loves to walk around the ponds, chase the rabbits and yell gibberish at the peacocks at Floyd Lamb Park. At least once a week, our family walks the trails at Red Rock National Conservation Area. Anytime we want to get out and enjoy a good restaurant or shopping, we head to Downtown Summerlin or Tivoli Village.

What is your dream job outside of your current field?

I dream of graphic design. Don’t graphic designers sit in yoga pants and sip on giant cups of coffee while leisurely staring at beautiful projects on giant monitors every day? I realize it’s most likely not quite as glamorous as I envision, but it sure sounds lovely in my head.

Whom do you admire?

My mom raised two young kids on a single income while in school full time. She exemplifies grace, humility and perseverance. I realize now that I’m older what a struggle she endured, but she shielded me and my brother from a lot. I make a point to mirror her kind, gentle spirit daily. Most notably, she taught me that it’s possible to be soft (hearted) and strong (minded).

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Rudeness. It takes zero extra effort to speak and act courteously toward other human beings. As a subcategory, blatant line-cutters make me crazy. When someone seated three rows behind me on a plane jumps into the aisle to get off the plane before me, I take serious issue with it.