Billboards Work in Special Ways Too

  • -

Billboards Work in Special Ways Too

You may have seen the billboards this summer: “You have two, I only need one.”



For the past two months, 25 digital billboards across the mid-Atlantic have been displaying a personal plea from Aretha Swift, an Abington, Pa., mother of three who is seeking an organ donor.Thanks to the campaign, five benevolent strangers have come forward.  The would-be donors have already submitted their medical paperwork and agreed to undergo testing to see if they are a match.


Overall, the campaign attracted attention from more than 30 media outlets, brought 1,521 unique visitors to Swift’s website and motivated 21 inquires from people interested in donating a kidney. The campaign lasted from June 1 to July 31. Last Thursday, Swift met with two Philadelphians and one man from Norristown, Pa., who are potential donors.

Bartkowski was in charge of setting the meetings up. “[Thursday] was such a full day for me, it was overwhelming and awesome,” said Swift, who has been undergoing dialysis three days a week. Of the five potential donors, three are women and two are men, ranging in age from their late 20s to late 50s. Geographically speaking, four of the five are from the greater Philadelphia area and one is from Virginia, but is a Philadelphia native.  “By having more than one person, it increases [Swift’s] chances,” said Thaddeus Bartkowski, a business owner who coordinated the billboard campaign.

It is possible that some of the willing donors might not be a match health-wise for Swift, but Bartkowski and Swift are cautiously optimistic that one of the five will be able to follow through with the medical procedure.  “This could take up to three months,” Swift said. “It’s a process …it’s up to them to follow through and it’s up to me to keep a relationship. Even if they don’t, I am still grateful they were even considering and willing to meet with me.”


The billboards were donated by outdoor advertising companies. Bartkowski, who operates Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, came up with the idea for the campaign and persuaded other business owners to participate.  The billboards were visible as far north as Times Square in Manhattan, along the Jersey Shore, throughout the Philadelphia suburbs and as far west as Reading, Pa.


Swift was diagnosed with acute renal kidney failure in 2010. “I do believe I will get a kidney soon,” Swift said. “I believe that someone’s going to do that for me. I just need to be patient, take care of myself and continue to go to treatment.”

“[Bartkowski] has been very proactive,” Swift said. “He has really taken this thing on head-first.”  Bartkowski said he was moved by the stories of the individuals who are unrelated to Swift but still willing to donate. Bartkowski said he hopes Swift’s story continues to grow even though the campaign for the billboards has concluded.  “People should give it serious consideration,” Bartkowski said. “Even though we have five people, [Swift] still doesn’t have a guaranteed donor here.”