UVM club baseball coach backs organ donations

JIM CARTER, SHOWN talking with players on the UVM club baseball team that he coaches, has shown as much passion for promoting organ donation as he has shown for baseball. He has made 3,000 presentation on the subject — many to high schoolers. David Matthews/The Vermont Cynic

Jim Carter is a man of passions. He is passionate about baseball: He coached baseball at Winooski High for 21 years and at the University of Vermont for six years, and now is the coach of the UVM club baseball team, and is the energy and brains behind the Friends of UVM baseball.

He has another passion: organ donation.

In the past 20 years he has made more than 3,000 presentations, mostly to young people, emphasizing in an hour-long talk the importance of seat belts and the impact of organ donation. He speaks at some Health classes, and civic groups and other organizations, but primarily connects with the Driver Education classes at Vermont high schools.

“I speak at about 45 high schools every semester,” he said to me this week. “I’ve been to high schools in every county, including all four in Addison County.”

He never runs out of opportunities to speak as the students in these classes change with every course.

“I’ve done over 100 presentations at Middlebury and Mount Abraham, and over 200 at Essex.”

Jim can probably tell you the name of every driver ed teacher in Vermont.

When he does these presentation, Jim brings with him people who have survived because of receiving an organ, and also those who have donated organs, a kidney for example. He has them speak to new drivers.

This passion is personal for Jim. His 17-year-old daughter, Andrea, died in 1991 from a head injury when the car in which she was a passenger went off the road — a half-mile from home, middle of the day, no alcohol, slow speed. Her seat belt was broken. She donated both kidneys, both corneas, her heart, and her liver.

In the last six years, the percentage of Vermont drivers who are now donors has risen dramatically. Jim gives great credit to Robert Ide, commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles from 2009-2017. “One of the goals of his tenure,” Jim said, “was to raise the number of organ donors. He’s a wonderful administrator and human being. 

“Six years ago, the percentage was at about 5%; now over half of Vermont drivers are organ donors.”

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