At three weeks old Ainsley Notine was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect that affects the opening of the diaphragm muscle in the chest. Complications from this diagnosis led to the need for a lifesaving liver transplant, which Ainsley received at five months old.
Eighteen years later, Ainsley is now a senior at Manatee School for the Arts where she is looking forward to the future. She got her driver’s license this past month and is determining which college to attend and pursue her passion through a degree in graphic design. “I’m excited to go to college and graduate high school,” Ainsley said. “I want to get out into the world and expand my reach and experience new things.”
Ainsley and her mom, Allyson, are grateful for the donor who gave Ainsley the gift of life and intend to share the lifesaving message of donation by supporting the Donate Life Florida specialty license plate that launched for pre-sale in October. “I’m so excited we are going to have a plate for the car. It sparks conversation,” said Allyson. “We are donors and we support this initiative. You never know the impact it may have on someone who might see it, and how it might encourage them to have conversation with their family about donation.”
Donate Life Florida must pre-sell 3,000 plate vouchers before the new plate can go into production. “We are excited to get the word out in ways it hasn’t been done before. It’s a great way to spread the word and give other people the chance to live normal lives.” Ainsley said. “It saved my life. It is the reason I’m here today and I would give anything to pass on that gift to another person or child.”
Funds raised from the sale of the Donate Life Florida specialty plate will support donation education in Florida and help manage Florida’s organ, eye and tissue donor registry. The Donate Life Florida specialty plate is $33, the vast majority of which goes directly to the cause and can be purchased at any tax collector or driver license office in Florida. Due to COVID-19 many offices require appointments to be made in advance and can be scheduled at www.FLHSMV.gov/locations.
“Our partnership with Donate Life Florida has always been an amazing connection to our core value of community and social responsibility,” said Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton, Jr. “This is a program that helps save the lives of so many individuals, and stories like Ainsley’s are the reason we are committed to our role of educating our driver license and ID card customers about the option to become an organ donor. This year alone, our offices have registered over 30,000 individuals to become donors. Now with this newly designed specialty plate, we are excited to assist Donate Life Florida in another way by offering pre-sale vouchers for the plate to support their organization and help spread the word about the power of becoming a life-saver.”
This week Ainsley, Allyson and their family friend, Gretchen Fowler, whose son, Anthony, passed away at the age of eleven and became an organ donor, purchased their Donate Life Florida specialty plate voucher together at the Manatee Tax Collector office in Ellenton. Anthony saved five lives through donation. “When you have something so tragic it’s hard to step outside of yourself, but when you look back you realize what a great opportunity it was to carry on someone’s legacy,” said Gretchen. “My son, Anthony, is now living on in other people. His name and his memory are still out there. It has been eight years now and we are still talking about him, he is not forgotten.”
Gretchen originally met Ainsley and Allyson in 2010. Allyson was one of Anthony’s teachers while Anthony and Ainsley’s younger siblings attended the same pre-school. They later became friends when they struck up a conversation after noticing the Donate Life license plate and sticker on one of their vehicles. Together these family friends want people to know about the importance of being an organ donor and the lifesaving impact donation makes for recipients and their families. “It is so special because the Donate Life Florida plate brings awareness and encourages conversations. It has brought us closer together and shows how much we appreciate each other as a recipient and a donor family,” said Gretchen.
Today there are over 108,000 people in the United States waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, 5,000 of them are waiting in Florida. Roughly 22 people pass away every day because an organ was not available in time. Anyone can register their decision to become an organ, eye and tissue donor at www.DonateLifeFlorida.org or when renewing or obtaining their driver license.