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IPC truck stop promotes organ donor awareness

IMG 8775SUFFERN, NY -- In 2006, Roxanne Watson felt a slight twinge in her back while at work. Thinking it was nothing more than a pulled muscle, she carried on with life.

But after six weeks, the twinge was still there, prompting Watson to consult her physician.

"He asked me when I had first felt the pain, and I told him six weeks earlier," she said. "He replied, 'You had a heart attack then.'"

Incredulous, Watson tried to get back to work, but was too weak. She sought advanced cardiac care in New York City and learned that her heart was failing and she would eventually need a transplant.

The Big Idaho Potato Truck was a popular highlight of the organ donor awareness drive, held April 18 on the campus of Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY.

In July of 2010, after 104 days in the hospital, Watson received the gift of life when 23-year-old Michael Blain Bovill, a Coast Guard cadet, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Watson received the young man's heart, while four other patients received his lungs, kidneys and liver.

Watson knew she wanted to give back, and just nine days after receiving her new heart, she did her first donor awareness event. Eleven months later, she met Bovill's family on "Ask Oprah's All Stars."

Her advocacy for heart disease prevention and organ donation took yet another turn four years ago when she saw a television commercial for the Idaho Potato Commission's Big Idaho Potato Truck. She contacted the commission and learned about the annual tour and its charitable component, and pitched the idea of including a stop at Rockland Community College, here, to participate in her 2016 organ donation drive.

"I knew that the IPC was promoting a heart-healthy message, so I contacted them and they said they supported my cause and would come," said Watson.

The first year was a success, said Watson, with 200 people signing on to become organ donors. The truck returned for a second year April 18, delighting the student body and visitors to the campus on a brilliant spring day.

The day featured a baked potato bar, interactions and photo ops with the popular IPC mascot Spuddy Buddy, and the opportunity to learn more about health and wellness, including organ donation.

Many visitors also took the time to sign the Big Helping board, for which the IPC will make a donation of $1 for every signature to Watson's Live On NY organization, up to $500.

"The IPC has been a generous partner, and I look forward to doing this again next year," said Watson. "It's a fun way to bring awareness to an important cause."