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Jefferson Award Winner Turns Family Tragedy Into Life-Saving Mission

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) - Nearly 120,000 people in the U.S. need life-saving organ transplants, according to organ donor networks. A San Francisco man who's lived through personal tragedy has made it his life's mission to increase the donor pool. He's this week's Jefferson Award winner.

Keith Crawford recently shared his painful personal story with a class at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. His 20-year-old daughter, Brittany, died in a car accident last year. He and his wife donated her organs.

"We got the news that Brittany was able to save the lives of four people," he explained. "Isn't that great? Just with her personality, this is something I'm sure she would have wanted."

Crawford repeats his story several times a month as a volunteer for the California Transplant Donor Network. He urges teenagers applying for their first driver's license to check the box indicating they want to be an organ donor. He also speaks to medical professionals.

"Hey, if one person can save the life of four people, just imagine through awareness and education how many more lives can be saved!" Crawford said.

According to organ donor networks, about 21,000 people in California are waiting for a transplant. The need is especially great for African Americans, but only about 15% are donors. Thanks to Crawford, more people of color are signing up.

Ayanna Anderson of the California Transplant Donor Network calls him a problem solver.

"He has reinvented himself as an educator, champion for donation," she said.

Crawford has appeared in promotional videos, and he started the nonprofit GiveLifeSaveLife, that produces a community radio show to publicize the need for organ donation.

And he's not a stranger in Lincoln High School teacher Ali Mayer's high school classroom.

"It's important that our young people know how precious life is," Mayer said. "That's why I want him to be here."

So for inspiring others to become organ and tissue donors, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Keith Crawford.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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