Blog post

Spreading the word about organ donation at American University and beyond

AKF Ambassador Amelia Rowniewski started an organ donation advocacy group at American University to educate students about organ donation and encourage more individuals to sign up as donors.
AU SODA regular image

AKF Ambassador Amelia Rowniewski is only 19 years old, but she's already making her mark on the world. She became an AKF Ambassador when she was 15, and at seven years old, she won the 2013 AKF Calendar Kids Art Contest. Now, as a student at American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., she's taken on a new role: president of the university's Student Organ Donation Advocates (SODA) group, which also has chapters at George Mason and George Washington, and universities across the country.  

Amelia started the chapter at AU to educate students about organ donation and encourage more individuals to sign up as donors, and to counter common misconceptions people have about organ donation. One of the methods the group has used to spread awareness is holding table events called "Donuts for Donors," where anyone who has registered as a donor or donated an organ can get a free donut, and people interested in becoming organ donors can register. "Of course, everyone wants a donut," Amelia said with a laugh. "[But after people come up and start talking to us about the donuts], they follow us on Instagram."  

Amelia also shares with people her own connection to kidney disease, which started when she was only two years old and caught a cold that "wouldn't go away." After being rushed to the hospital due to breathing problems, doctors informed Amelia's mother that her daughter's kidneys were failing, and Amelia was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare but serious disease that destroys red blood cells and blocks the kidneys' filters. She started dialysis immediately and was placed into a month-long coma to help her body recover.   

When she was three years old, Amelia received a deceased donor transplant. Ever since then, she has been a passionate, outspoken advocate for organ donation and people in the kidney community. "Getting sick was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it has also been the best [thing]," Amelia said. "I've gotten to connect with so many AKF Ambassadors, and it's given me a voice and a purpose which has inspired me to want to pursue a career in medicine."  

Amelia's passion has proven to be contagious, as she has inspired other AU students to join SODA, including Emily Holland, who serves as the group's treasurer and vice president. "My father is a pediatric cardiologist and has worked with children who have received and needed organ transplants, so I'd heard about the doctor's side of organ donation," Emily said. She and Amelia became friends during their freshman year at AU, and when Amelia asked if she could take on a leadership role, Emily didn't hesitate to say yes. This was in part because the start of college (typically age 18) coincides with the time people become eligible to become organ donors. "As you're starting to figure out who you are in college, having advocacy groups of all different kinds, including organ donation, [is really valuable]," Emily said.  

Emily said she hopes the group's membership will continue to grow, and that students who have signed up as donors will get more involved and join SODA's efforts to promote organ donation, instead of viewing it as a matter of "checking off a box" once they've signed up. "If you are a donor, then you can help us [encourage] other people to be donors," she said.  

For more information about SODA, visit 

Visit our website for information about becoming an organ donor. 


Jenni Muns

Jenni Muns is the associate director of communications at AKF