Legacy Award - Ron Packard
The Lifeline of Ohio Legacy Award is bestowed on an individual who has demonstrated exemplary advocacy, influenced public awareness and made an impact on the understanding of organ, eye and tissue donation. This year, the award was given posthumously to Ron Packard, whose family accepted on his behalf.
Marilyn Pongonis, retired former Director of Public Relations for Lifeline of Ohio, worked with Ron for many years and wrote the following tribute.
As a college student, Ron was diagnosed with Sclerosing Cholangitis, an ultimately fatal disease with no known cure. His only hope for a future was a liver transplant, which he received in the fall of 1994.
Initially, his liver functioned well, but complications eventually brought him back to the hospital and back on the transplant list. In spring of 1995, the gift of a second hero changed the trajectory of his life. This transplant was a complete success and became the impetus of a lifetime dedicated to honoring his donors.
In the months following his transplant, he was unable to return to working full time and seized the opportunity to begin volunteering at Lifeline of Ohio, fulfilling speaker requests. Telling the world the story of his second chance at life and the difference one person can make as a donor became his healing therapy. Eventually, Lifeline of Ohio hired him as a part-time educator and eventually, with his doctors’ blessings, he became a full-time employee.
His influence has been far-reaching:
- He’s personally responsible for educating thousands of young people in high schools across Central and Southeastern Ohio about the importance of their donation decision.
- He trained and mentored hundreds of Lifeline of Ohio volunteers, guiding the evolution of the Volunteer Training program over 20 years.
- His contributions led to the inclusion of donation education in Ohio’s driver’s education programming.
- In 1998, he took on responsibility for a Lifeline of Ohio Dash for Donation 5K, growing it into the organization’s largest public awareness event for more than 20 years.
- He helped support legislation and policy issues impacting donation — and passionately shared his story before the Ohio General Assembly and countless state committees throughout the years.
But if asked, he would say the true legacy of his donors is his children, James and Joy. Both the fulfillment of a dream made possible only through the generosity of two strangers who shared the Gifts of Life with him.
Sadly, following a long illness, he passed in December 2021. But his influence lives on, in not only the lives of his family and friends, but also in the thousands of people he impacted through his storied career with Lifeline of Ohio.