Key2Finesse members celebrate at last year’s Speak the Difference competition.

Key2Finesse members celebrate at last year’s Speak the Difference competition.

Photo provided

Troy students host virtual fundraiser for Gift of Life Foundation

By: Mary Beth Almond | Troy Times | Published December 8, 2020


TROY — Students from the Troy School District are rallying together this month to help youth build important social skills while supporting organ and tissue donation across Michigan.

Troy Schools student and Key2Finesse board member Varsha Penumalee said the Key2Finesse club was formed by students a few years ago to promote public speaking for youth and support charitable organizations in the area, while creating student leaders. Today, the club has 10 student board members and 50 volunteers.

The club’s main event is the annual “Speak the Difference” competition, which will be held virtually this year via Zoom starting at 8 a.m. Dec. 13. The competition has various subcategories for students to enter, including prepared and impromptu speaking, poetry, essay, coding, art and multimedia.

Troy Schools student and Key2Finesse board member Krish Ghosalkar said the Speak the Difference event allows students in the community to showcase their skills and give back to their community in a meaningful way.

“The focal point of our events has always been public speaking; we believe it is extremely important to encourage our youth to participate in public speaking, since effective communication has become increasingly important. Additionally, Key2Finesse strives to empower our youth to express themselves and use their voice to stand up and fight for change in our community. Especially this year with COVID-19, we want to provide students with a platform at a time in which opportunities are scarce,” he said in an email.

All of the proceeds from the money raised during the event go directly to the Gift of Life Foundation this year.

“All of the money we raise — we don’t take a penny of it — is given to them,” Penumalee explained.

The Gift of Life Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports Gift of Life Michigan — the state’s only federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. Gift of Life Michigan recovers more than 900 organs — along with bone, skin and other tissue — every year for transplantation from 300 or more donors, saving hundreds of lives.

“I have been incredibly impressed to partner with the young adults associated with Key2Finesse,” said Susan Rink, the chief of philanthropy and foundation programs for the Gift of Life Foundation. “Even during this unique time, they have dedicated their efforts virtually by supporting the Detroit MOTTEP LifeWalk event supporting Gift of Life Michigan and their outreach efforts with Ally Bank.”

The need for organ donation has increased substantially due to COVID-19, Rink explained.

“When any new virus comes along, particularly one that has affected the world this much, we just don’t know enough about it — not only how it affects the body while you have it, but the long-term effects — so anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19 is not able to be an organ donor,” she said.

The need for life-saving organs and tissues is something that Rink said doesn’t go away in a pandemic.

“In the state of Michigan, as of Dec. 1, there were over 2,500 people waiting for a life-saving organ. Nationally, over 109,000 are on the national organ donor registry and sadly, at least 20 new people are added to that list each day. Even sadder still, people die while they are waiting for that life-saving organ, so the need is significant. For every one person who has the ability to be an organ donor, they can save the lives of up to eight people and enhance the lives of up to 75 people,” she said.

To make a financial contribution to support Key2Finesse’s fundraising campaign, visit Michi/k2f.html.

To become an organ donor, visit