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Hélène Campbell receives the Key to the City

June 14, 2018
Announcements and Events

Mayor Jim Watson presented the Key to the City to Hélène Campbell at a ceremony at City Hall this evening, in recognition of her tremendous work raising awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation and for her great personal courage.

Diagnosed with asthma, Ms. Campbell struggled to be active and in 2011 sought further medical attention. In October of 2011, doctors diagnosed her with a rare pulmonary fibrosis (pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis) and told her she needed a double-lung transplant.

While she waited to find a suitable transplant, and while in her early twenties, Ms. Campbell turned her focus to launching her online donor campaign #BeAnOrganDonor, which drew attention across North America and from celebrities including Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres. She has appeared on several of Ellen’s shows to promote the benefits of organ donation.

In April 2012, with her lungs failing, Ms. Campbell underwent a successful double-lung transplant.

While she has recovered from surgery, her focus remains on encouraging organ donations and spearheading the Give2Live campaign, which raises funds to support Canadians who must live away from home near a transplant centre while they await an organ donation. Hélène continues to speak publicly and to champion the efforts of organ donation awareness.

Hélène Campbell is a long time resident of Barrhaven, and in May 2016, her activism efforts were recognized by the City of Ottawa with the renaming of a street in her honour.


“Hélène Campbell’s spirit and drive are inspirational. As a City, we are so proud of her efforts to promote organ donations, which save lives.  She has lead her awareness campaigns with grace, perseverance and humility. Ottawa is blessed to have such a courageous young leader as part of our community and setting an example for others.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

Key Facts

The Key to the City

  • The Key to the City is Ottawa’s most prestigious award.
  • An ornamental key is presented to esteemed residents, visitors and others whom the City of Ottawa wishes to honour. This practice has a symbolic meaning evoking medieval walled cities, the gates of which would be guarded during the day and locked at night. The key symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will as a trusted friend of city residents.
  • Some former recipients include:
    • Mr. Peter A. Herrndorf
    • The Right Honourable David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston
    • Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth (now, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II)
    • Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands
    • Author Margaret Atwood
    • Photographers Yousuf and Malak Karsh
    • The Community Foundation of Ottawa
    • Actress Sandra Oh
    • Ottawa Senators former Captain Daniel Alfredsson
    • The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada
    • Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek
    • TV and radio news journalist, Michel Picard


Hélène Campbell, a resident of Barrhaven, was diagnosed with asthma as a young girl and attributed her shortness of breath to her “respiratory condition.” In the summer of 2011, Hélène spoke with her family doctor as she was experiencing feeling faint on exertion. After numerous tests, she was diagnosed with a fatal lung disease called pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis. Her respirologist advised that her only treatment was a double lung transplant. In January 2012, Hélène moved to Toronto and was placed on a lung-donation waiting list. On April 6th, 2012, Hélène underwent a successful double lung transplant. In September 2017, Hélène underwent a second successful double lung transplant.

In November 2011, Hélène started a social media campaign and launched her Twitter account @alungstory. In January 2012, while waiting for her transplant, she started using the hashtag #BeAnOrganDonor with a goal to get Justin Bieber to retweet the message to create awareness and encourage people to talk about organ donation. Justin retweeted, her campaign took off and organ donation registrations increased. In March 2012, Hélène appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show through Skype to talk about her cause and to encourage organ donation. When she was well enough in February of 2013, Hélène travelled to California and appeared on The Ellen Show where she danced with Ellen to celebrate her life-saving double lung transplant and to augment her campaign.

Harnessing the power of social media, Hélène imprinted herself into the hearts and minds of Canadians and people all over the world. Her continued advocacy for the cause of organ and tissue donation triggered an unprecedented rise in registration to donor lists in Canada and the USA. Hélène’s passion, limitless optimism, feisty personality, incredible courage and positive spirit, coupled with the ideals and principles that she lives by – be grateful, live passionately and seek out those with tenacity – have contributed to her impact and success.

Hélène has been a popular speaker at health conferences, hospital functions and galas, and has given many media interviews. She is the recipient of the Trillium Gift of Life Network Champion Award (November 2012), Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (May 2011), the Order of Ottawa (November 2012), and Communicator of the Year Award (May 2013). Hélène continues to be a passionate and active advocate for organ and tissue donation and encourages others to give the gift of life.

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