TODAY, as the countdown to Christmas gathers pace, The Press is calling on you to give the greatest gift of all.

Our new Lifesavers campaign aims to ease the agony for thousands of people on the UK organ donor transplant list.

Our aims are simple.

• We want to raise awareness of organ donation and encourage people to discuss it with their loved ones.

• We want to reopen the debate on adopting an opt-out system, rather than the current opt-in one, so people’s organs can be used unless they have explicitly objected while alive.

• And, above all, we want to recruit 20,000 new donors in our region by the end of 2010.

The campaign comes in the aftermath of the death of 22-year-old Miss York finalist and cystic fibrosis sufferer Emma Young.

She died last month, while awaiting a lung transplant that never came. She is one of 1,000 people who will die this year while waiting for the organ they need. On an average day, three families around the country are hit by such tragedy.

Emma’s family is backing the drive, as are numerous others whose loved ones’ organs have saved lives, who have themselves benefited from transplants, or who have endured the heartache of losing someone they loved due to the lack of donors.

David Young, Emma’s father, said even increasing the donor rate would not guarantee survival for those in need – but it would give them better prospects.

“More donors would increase the chances,” he said.

“I absolutely back this campaign and my family will.”

The Lifesavers initiative also has the full backing of NHS Blood and Transplant, which coordinates organ donation across the UK.

Local co-ordinator Joanne Turner pleaded with people to get behind the drive, saying: “If you believe in organ donation then prove it, and join the register.”

Today, there are 244,106 donors in our patch.

By the end of next year, we want to have added an extra 20,000.

Surveys show 90 per cent of the population support organ donation, but only 27 per cent nationwide and 30 per cent in our area are on the register. Through our campaign, we aim to increase that.

York MP Hugh Bayley, a registered donor for more than 35 years, praised the initiative and said he would raise the issue of organ donation in Parliament after the next General Election, if he retains his seat.

He favours an opt-out system, which would mean people would need to say in advance if they didn’t want their organs used, rather than if they did.

He said: “I am delighted you are organising the campaign. More donors will save lives. If my eyes, or liver or heart or kidneys can help restore someone else after I die, I would want to pass on the gift of life and I hope The Press can achieve the target of getting 20,000 more people to sign up.”

How to join Organ Donor Register

You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by:

• Going online at

• Phoning the 24-hour donor line on 0300 123 23 23.

• Texting SAVE to 84118.

You can also join when you:

• Register for a driving licence.

• Apply for a Boots Advantage card.

• Register at a GP surgery.

• Register for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Leaflets are also displayed in GPs surgeries, libraries and many hospitals and pharmacies.