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JoEllen Baldwin

JoEllen Baldwin

For nearly a decade, JoEllen Baldwin has been associated with the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) Board of Directors and its President's Advisory Council. Because JoEllen is a natural... and a professional... planner, and her decision to come on board in a leadership role at COTA was perfectly timed.

"It was some time ago that T. Michael Ford, a long-time COTA Board Member approached me about joining COTA's Board of Directors," JoEllen remembered. "He and I have been friends at work for years and have been friends personally since our children were in preschool. Michael introduced me to COTA's President, Rick Lofgren, and the rest is history."

JoEllen explained that she and her husband, Tim, were raising a young son who had developmental struggles so they found themselves as young parents searching for professionals who could help. JoEllen and Tim learned quickly this was not going to be easy and stumbled as they attempted to discover where they could turn for help. She said, "There is nothing more terrifying as a parent than having a child who is sick or compromised in any way and you do not know where to find help. You feel so powerless at a time when you need to be on top of everything but are instead being pulled under by the weight of the unknown."

JoEllen's son was grown and out of high school when Michael approached her about getting involved with COTA. JoEllen remembers she was volunteering for their church and had been involved with the Big Sister Program, but she was ready for something new to add to her 'empty nester' chapter. Michael opened the COTA conversation with JoEllen by describing how COTA helps transplant parents who are navigating unknown waters... families who JoEllen could instantly relate to in terms of wanting the best for a child but not knowing where to turn. "Once I heard about the safety net COTA provides, I was instantly impressed -- especially with the peace of mind COTA provides to parents of very sick kids, teens and young adults."

JoEllen has been a higher education space planner for more than three decades. Twenty-three years of that time was spent doing space management projects at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, which is also home to COTA. JoEllen said, "Once I started learning more about COTA's incredible work with a nationwide network of transplant families, I was very surprised to discover this amazing organization was headquartered in my hometown of Bloomington."

When COTA's Rick Lofgren reached out to JoEllen about serving on COTA's President's Advisory Council, she did not hesitate to get involved. Then in 2017, she was honored to be asked to join COTA's Board of Directors where she is now in her second, three-year term of service. When asked about a specific COTA family or child who has left an indelible mark on her heart, she readily talks about a family who shared their journey at a COTA Board Meeting she attended. JoEllen remembers, "COTA's Harvey family, at the time of the presentation, had three children. Their son, Noah, needed a life-saving transplant. As his mother, Susan, shared their story Noah was running around the room full of energy and smiles. Susan talked about one disappointment after another... an infection, a medication reaction, insurance challenges,

never-ending bills and then she talked about COTA being their lifeline. Sadly, I was devastated to learn Noah passed away a few months after listening to their story and watching him run around the room."

Throughout her years of service to COTA, JoEllen has learned COTA parents fight very hard yet sometimes the battle ends in tragedy. But there are also victories and blessings to celebrate. While talking about this emotional contrast JoEllen said, "There is absolutely no better nonprofit organization I could have become involved with."

Given that sentiment and JoEllen's professional role as a planner, it is not surprising that she decided to make a provision in her estate plan to help COTA families well into the future. She said, "My husband had been talking for a number of years about his estate plans. After I learned Noah had died after fighting so hard, I began to think about how I could help families like his. So, when I updated my estate plan last year, I committed to sharing part of my estate with COTA."

When asked if she had any words of encouragement for others who might be considering including COTA in their estate planning process, JoEllen said, "Every donation to COTA makes a difference in the life of a child who needs a life-saving transplant. Every donation contributes to a transplant family's hope for good health. My advice? Donate what you can when you can to COTA and give HOPE to these amazing families.

If you would like information about estate planning or how to make an estate gift to further COTA's mission like JoEllen has, please contact Rick Lofgren, COTA's President, at [email protected] or call him at 800.366.2682.