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Board Member Spotlight: Taryn Gwinner on the Inspiration Behind Her Organ Donation Advocacy Journey

Written by Taryn Gwinner, Board Member, as told to Zoe Engels, Blog Contributor

Meet SODA National Board Member, Taryn Gwinner! As a donor mother, Taryn strives to raise awareness for organ donation in honor of her daughter, Hannah, who gave the gift of life to four people. Taryn first got involved with SODA as the Marketing and Social Media Advisor before joining SODA National’s Board of Directors in February 2022. We had the chance to ask Taryn some questions about her life and organ donation advocacy experiences. Learn more about Taryn—including what she’s currently binge-watching!—in the Q&A below.

What inspired you to get involved with SODA?

I lost my 22-month-old daughter, Hannah, in April of 2019, and we chose to donate her organs, which saved four people’s lives. About six months later, I found myself looking for ways to get more involved in the organ donation community and came across a Taproot [a volunteer opportunity platform] project from SODA looking for someone with marketing expertise to help develop a social media strategy and provide guidance on a variety of marketing operations activities. Since that's my professional background, I felt like it would be a great fit, and we've been working together ever since—at first as the Marketing and Social Media Advisor but then, recently, transitioning into a board member.

As Marketing and Social Media Advisor, Taryn helped grow SODA National's Instagram account! Check out our profile.

What does organ donation mean to you?

Because of my personal story, it hits very close to home. When we knew we were going to lose Hannah, we wanted to find any way we could to keep part of her alive, and organ donation allowed us to do that. Of course, we know our choice has helped save four people’s lives, but it also lets Hannah live on through others. We've been able to connect with three of our four recipients and see how their lives have improved tremendously through our choice.

What do you enjoy most about being part of SODA National’s Board of Directors?

I enjoy being able to help shape the future of SODA, providing input and direction on new initiatives, and seeing the progress they've made over time.

If you could give students any piece of advice, what would it be?

If you can, take advantage of study abroad. It's such a wonderful opportunity to experience other cultures and step outside of your comfort zone.

Tell us about yourself!

I am a Marketing Director focusing on Demand Generation and Account-Based Marketing programs. I've been working in the B2B Marketing space for over 15 years, running lead generation campaigns, customer communications, social media, and employee advocacy programs. I graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Marketing and International Business, and I live in Northern New Jersey. My husband and I are big foodies so we spend a lot of whatever free time we have exploring new restaurants, food trucks, and cities/towns with great dining scenes. On our honeymoon, we had a 41-course dinner in Barcelona! I also enjoy pottery making and have taken a few classes—one day it would be fun to own my own pottery wheel.

When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your free time?

Right now, it's chasing my 14-month-old son, Russell. He gets into everything, so it's basically a second full-time job watching after him. He's just like his big sister, Hannah—curious and mischievous. Aside from that, I like to crochet but tend to have little patience for long projects, so I stick to quick things like scarfs and ear warmers.

When you were a kid, what was your dream job?

I never really had a dream job, but my parents always said I should be a lawyer because I would argue my point until they'd give in. Perhaps in another life I'll go to law school.

What are you currently watching?

We've been long-time fans of Better Call Saul, which is in its final few episodes of the series. I've also been binge watching America’s Test Kitchen.

Finally, do you have a fun fact about yourself that you’d like to share?

I attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which is the school that the movie FAME was based on. I played French Horn in their music program.

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