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A Night to Remember: Versiti's Imagine Gala

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Shari Deeken, Editorial Consultant

Friday the 13th with a full moon may sound potentially scary to some people, but not

for a group of SODA National Leaders and Board Members, who instead found themselves enjoying a lovely evening at the 2019 Annual Imagine Gala, an event sponsored by the Versiti Blood Research Institute Foundation at the Wisconsin Club in downtown Milwaukee.

The Blood Research Institute’s (BRI) annual fundraiser resulted in more than $200,000 raised for their team of more than 30 blood researchers. This team devotes itself toward a shared goal, which is to find cures and better treatments for various blood diseases and disorders, such as leukemia, hemophilia, stroke, and more. The BRI falls within Versiti, an organization that also houses Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation, and which is the very first Organ Procurement Organization that SODA partnered with to launch SODA chapters at schools in their geographically-assigned service area. 

Enjoying the evening’s gala were SODA Founder and President, Sara Miller, along with her

parents -- SODA National Board Members Ron Miller and Susan Angel Miller. From SODA’s National Leadership team, was Shari Deeken, Editorial Consultant, who was joined with Vaibhavi Talati, Student Outreach Coordinator. In addition, both of Marquette University’s co-chapter SODA presidents attended, Jocelin Reynosourenda and Adiah Balz. 

SODA members shared a table and exchanged stories about their passion for organ donation and unique vision for SODA. They discussed how similar the goals of both SODA and Versiti are - ultimately both organizations strive to save lives. Sara recounted that she grew up volunteering for Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation, and it was at this OPO that she became a passionate advocate for organ donation. Through the relationships she formed as a volunteer, the OPO became SODA’s first partner as the organization began to expand nationwide. 

Another point of discussion was the tremendous growth of SODA at many colleges and high schools across the U.S., primarily on the East Coast and in the Midwest, during the 2018-2019 school year. Vaibhavi summarized everyone’s emotions when she said that she was, “So proud of all that we have accomplished together with SODA!”

Following this presentation was a video as well as a series of patient testimonials about how

people’s lives have been changed for the better, literally thanks to the life-saving work performed by the Blood Research Institute. Afterward, the lively and enthusiastic auction was held for the gala’s many unique items and events, which included a luxury weekend in Chicago, an enchanting trip to California’s wine country, and a winter weekend golf getaway Florida.

A truly successful evening was enjoyed by all, with new funding that will help continue 

galvanize the exciting research being conducted by the team of scientists at the BRI.

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