About the Trust
History and Milestones
In 1992, the Kentucky Association of Circuit Court Clerks successfully sponsored legislation through the Kentucky General Assembly that afforded every Kentuckian obtaining a driver’s license or ID an opportunity to donate dollars to promote organ & tissue donation. These dollar donations were put into a Trust. The Circuit Clerks called it their Trust For Life (renamed Donate Life Kentucky Trust in 2024).
Since creating the Trust, the Circuit Clerks raised more than $15 million in Kentucky’s 120 counties. The Trust uses the funds from the donations to raise public awareness and encourage organ and tissue donation throughout the Commonwealth through an extensive advertising and public relations effort. The Trust was the first such program in the US, and since its inception, many other states have requested information about the program and several other states now have similar programs.
In 1999, the Trust established the Satterwhite Recipient Assistance Fund to raise money to aid Kentucky transplant recipients and their families directly. Money for this fund comes from events like Spring & Fall Day at the Races at Churchill Downs and fundraisers conducted by the Circuit Court Clerks, as well as individual donations and bequests.
In 2006, the Trust was one of the organizations that encouraged the Kentucky Legislature to pass HB57, setting up the online Kentucky Donor Registry. It was named to a coalition that included Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) and other organizations to create the statewide, confidential online registry of people who wish to help others through organ, eye & tissue donation. Since 2006, over 2 million Kentuckians have placed their name on the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry. To add your name to the Registry, go to www.registermeky.org.
In 2010, the Trust partnered with Kosair for Kids to raise awareness about children needing organ transplants. Our two organizations were originally linked by David Nicholson, Jefferson Co. Circuit Clerk, who is also a Shriner. Every person who joins the Registry gives hope to kids and families in need.
In 2013, the Kentucky Circuit Clerk’s Offices launched a new Heart icon on driver’s licenses. Starting Jan. 23, 2013, a symbol is added to your license that stands for hope and generosity on something you carry with you everywhere: your driver’s license. Many people remember the old orange dot, but now, like Indiana, Ohio, and other states, Kentuckians have a donor heart icon automatically printed on their license once they register as a donor at the driver’s license office.
In 2016, Kentucky reached the national goal of 50% of Kentuckians registered as donors! Donate Life America awarded Kentucky the 2016 Donor Designation Rate award for Highest Increase at the AAMVA Region II Conference.
In 2016, Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates formally partnered with the Trust for services. They provided over $400,000 in funding for community outreach efforts to increase the number of lives saved through donation and transplantation. A longtime partner, this formal strategic alliance combined the Trust and KODA Community Outreach Staff Members and promotes a singular strategic plan and leadership focus.
In 2019, the Trust supported legislation to add the organ donor registry question to the Kentucky Online Gateway, which has added approximately 1000 names per month since it was enacted.
In 2020, the state began transitioning driver’s licenses away from the Circuit Clerks Offices into the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) offices. With an updated touchpad, the question about financial donations now includes a $2, $5, $10, and $25 contribution option. The Registry question is only asked to those who are not currently registered. Kentucky is a once-yes, always-yes state, so once you join the Registry, you do not have to join again. A person can remove their name from the Registry anytime by going to www.registermeky.org and clicking “change registration” or by calling our office at 1-866-945-5433.
In 2022, the Trust supported legislation to add the organ donor registry question and financial contribution question to the online car tag renewal screens and allow the County Clerks the opportunity to ask when people are renewing their car tags in person.
In 2023, the Trust launched a Donate Life KY Scholarship Program to allow students and community members who promote the mission of organ, eye, and tissue donation to earn scholarship dollars towards advancing their education. Scholarships are made possible by the Circuit Clerks’ Trust For Life Endowment Fund.
In 2024, the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust For Life rebranded as Donate Life Kentucky Trust. This momentous change represented a significant step forward in the organization’s ongoing mission to educate about donation and encourage everyone to join the organ, eye, and tissue donation registry while obtaining a driver’s license and beyond. The decision to adopt the name “Donate Life Kentucky Trust” was rooted in a desire to amplify the organization’s reach and effectiveness in raising awareness about the importance of organ donation. The organization aims to engage more individuals and communities in this lifesaving cause by aligning the name with its core mission.
“Our missions converge; both organizations are involved in helping save lives. It’s in our interest to help the Trust keep their message out there because often organ & tissue donations go to kids,” explains Kosair for Kids Board Member H.I. Stroth.
The Trust was originally linked with Kosair Charities in 2010 by Jefferson Co. Circuit Clerk, David Nicholson, who is a Shriner. That connection led to a more formal partnership including a $150,000 grant from Kosair Charities to support the Trust’s public outreach & education efforts. Kosair Charities changed its name to Kosair For Kids in 2022.
“The more awareness we extend, the more children will be saved by the miracle of transplantation. As Circuit Clerks, we spread this message in each of our offices. Thanks to Kosair for Kids, our reach is even greater,” explains Linda Avery, Calloway Co. Circuit Clerk & Trust For Life Board Member.
KODA has supported the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks and their Trust For Life since its inception in 1992. KODA leadership and board members have served on the Trust board for years. Together we promote donation throughout the state and encourage all Kentuckians to be registered organ donors to save lives.
“KODA’s support of our organization has been incredible. From supporting new ideas and initiatives, data sharing, volunteer development, training, and generous sponsorships, we cherish our partnership with such an outstanding organization,” explains Shelley Heavrin Snyder, Executive Director of KY Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust For Life.
Click here to learn more about our educational programs and events made possible by these important supporters.
Satterwhite Patient Assistance Fund
The Satterwhite Patient Assistance Fund was founded for the sole purpose of helping Kentucky transplanted patients who have fallen on financial hardships. With doctor’s bills, multiple follow-up appointments, and medication, the financial burden can mount rapidly. Our Satterwhite patient assistance fund helps to pay for necessary assistance like gas cards, medical equipment, co-pays, and lodging for appointments.
This fund allows us to help others protect the most precious gift one can receive, the gift of a second chance at life. With your help, we will continue to grow this fund to help our Kentucky patients.
To find out if you are eligible to receive assistance, please speak with your social worker from your transplant hospital.
“The patient assistance fund provided me all the funds to stay at a hotel located two miles from my transplant hospital. They saved me and my family from a greater financial burden on top of the worry that my transplant had already placed on them. Today I am happy to say I’m feeling and doing great! While I still have a long road of recovery ahead of me, the support of my family, friends, and the patient assistance fund will allow me to succeed!”
Circuit Clerks’ Trust For Life Endowment – Donate Life Scholarship Program
In 2023, the Trust launched a Circuit Clerks’ Trust For Life Endowment Scholarship Program to allow students and community members who promote the mission of organ, eye, and tissue donation to earn scholarship dollars towards advancing their education.
Apply here: bit.ly/DonateLifeScholarship or learn more by emailing BKaelin@donatelifeky.org.
Board of Directors 2023
|Calloway Circuit Court Clerk
|Hopkins Circuit Court Clerk
|Trimble Circuit Court Clerk
|Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates
|Butler Circuit Court Clerk
|Grant Circuit Court Clerk
|Russell Circuit Court Clerk
|Adair Circuit Court Clerk
|Community Member (Former Henry Circuit Court Clerk)
|Community Member (Recipient family/waiting)
|Jefferson Co. Chief Deputy
|Kenton Circuit Court Clerk
|Clark Circuit Clerk
|LifeCenter Organ Donor Network – Director of Public Affairs
|Community Member (former Circuit Clerk)
|Driver’s License Director, Transportation Cabinet