Christian Sutton, who holds a bachelor’s degree in communication-public relations, takes his responsibilities as a volunteer ambassador for Sierra Donor Services very seriously. After all, the work of organ procurement organizations is what saved his life. When Sutton was 2 years old, he received a heart transplant.
For his dedication to this non-profit organization, Sutton received the Community Engagement Medal from the CSUF Internship and Community Engagement Center.
“I have a personal connection to the work I do,” he said. “I received the gift of life 23 years ago and I don’t take a day for granted. “
When the pandemic struck, Sutton discovered he had to find a way to complete his internship remotely. By working with the College of Communications and Sierra Donor Services, he was able to develop a program where he could provide services to the organization while receiving internship credits.
“We basically created a public education internship that could continue even after I had served my hours,” he said. “I was the ‘inaugural intern’ but I had seven years of experience as a volunteer ambassador, so that helped me.”
As an ambassador, Sutton served as an advocate and educator, speaking to others about organ donation and dispelling myths. For example, there is no age limit for being a donor (the oldest organ donor was 98, the oldest tissue donor was 101), the only medical condition that can prevent a person from donating is if they have sepsis or active cancer (cancer survivors can donate), and most religions do not prohibit organ donation (in fact, many believe that it is an act of charity and benevolence).
Sutton chose to major in communications because he knew storytelling is an important part of reaching out to potential donors.
“I’m talking about my experience and how I was able to stay in touch with the family of the donor who saved my life,” he said. “People respond to personal stories and I want to demonstrate the power of organ and tissue donation to save lives. And then we encourage them to register and discuss their wishes with their family and friends.
He even wrote about his volunteer work in a blog post for the Public Relations Student Society of America.
After graduating, Sutton will travel to Florida to do an internship at Walt Disney World. He hopes he can combine his two passions – organ donation education and Disney – in his future, perhaps working at Disney while volunteering with a donor program.