Happy Independence Day!

July 2, 2012

The Lefferts family celebrates their loved one, John, who helped others through organ/tissue donation.

Independence Day is almost here! This year, we encourage transplant recipients to celebrate a different kind of independence. We encourage you to celebrate freedom from countless doctor appointments, hours of dialysis, and the stress of waiting for a lifesaving gift.

We are asking recipients and their family members to share how organ/tissue transplants have provided independence in their daily lives. You can do this by posting/tweeting a photo of yourself or loved one running a race, swimming for miles, or living life to the fullest. If you don’t have any awesome photos, you can post/tweet about how organ and tissue donation has changed your life. Be sure to tag Gift of Hope on Facebook or tweet at @GiftofHope

Steve and Melissa are free to “Hustle Up The Hancock” after receiving lifesaving transplants.

Happy Independence Day!

– Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope


Donate Life Month Wrap-Up

May 4, 2011

April has ended, and May is officially here. We can now look forward to warm weather, kids coming home from school, days at the beach and all sorts of summer fun. But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s be sure to reflect on an extremely successful National Donate Life Month.

There were hundreds of events and news stories surrounding donation throughout April, which led to a HUGE boost in donor registrations. Here, in no particular order, are four of our favorites from the past month.

1. 30 Reasons You Should Register as an Organ Donor Blog

Scott's driver's license showing that he is a registered donor.

Scott Meis, a good friend of Donate Life Illinois, documented 30 reasons why you should register as an organ and tissue donor. Each day throughout the month of April, Scott gave a new reason to register. His reasons to register ranged from sharing donor family and recipient stories to his #1 reason you should register—Duh.

Scott’s blog is an amazing compilation of donation stories and information. We encourage you to take a few moments to read 30
Reasons You Should Register as an Organ
 at Scott’s blog.

2. Charles Tillman and Paco Rodriguez

Organ and tissue donation leaped into the national headlines on Tuesday, April 19. Two nationally syndicated television shows prominently featured heartfelt organ and tissue donation stories.

Jackie Tillman, daughter and heart transplant recipient Tiana and Charles.

In the morning, The Oprah Winfrey Show featured the family of Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and their story of life and donation. Tiana Tillman, Charles’ daughter, needed  a lifesaving heart transplant as a baby, and she was fortunate enough to receive the gift of life from a selfless donor. Oprah highlighted the Tillman family’s story and then introduced them to their donor family. You can view the video here.

Recipients of Francisco Rodriguez's organs with Francisco's wife and child, Sonia and Ginette Rodriguez.

Later that afternoon, the ESPN program E:60 told the story of Chicago boxer Francisco “Paco” Rodriguez and his family’s decision to donate life after a fatal bout in Philadelphia. The story is available on ESPN.com here.

3. Gift of Hope Hospital Campaign

Morgan D'Organ joins Wendy, Nichole and Ryan at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago

Throughout April, the Hospital Development staff at Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network worked closely with hospitals throughout Illinois and northwest Indiana to build donation awareness and register hospital staff and guests as organ and tissue donors. The Hospital Development staff held tons of events and registered hundreds of individuals as organ and tissue donors. Their efforts ranged from staffing donor registration tables to hosting educational panels featuring Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

Steve Ferkau and Anna Davlantes at Lifesaving Partners.

The Hospital Development staff also hosted the annual Lifesaving Partners Awards event with Fox Chicago News anchor Anna Davlantes as emcee and double-lung recipient Steve Ferkau as featured speaker. 

4. Commercial Featuring Mikahla Thornton and Brittney Payton

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office produced a commercial featuring heart recipient Mikahla Thornton and Brittney Payton, daughter of the late Chicago Bears legend. The commercial aired throughout Illinois and encouraged viewers to register their decision to be organ and tissue donors.

Thanks to all of you who made an effort to promote organ and tissue donation throughout National Donate Life Month. No effort was too small in April, whether it was a tweet to friends encouraging them to register or an event that drew thousands. If you haven’t done so already, take 30 seconds to register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor at DonateLifeIllinois.org!

Donate Life Hollywood Film Fest

May 13, 2010

The top three submissions to the 2010 Donate Life Hollywood Film Fest were announced. Being held on June 12 in Beverly Hills, the Film Fest highlights positive and accurate presentations of organ/tissue donation and transplantation in TV and films. Each video shares a moving and personal story and really connect with the viewer. Very powerful stuff.

At DLI, we’re big fans of using video to share individual’s stories and connect with viewers. Our video, Steve’s Story – The Circle of Life took second place in the online shorts category at last year’s competition.

Check out this year’s top submissions:

6 Days

The Fallen Firefighter

Maime Jackson: Life on Dialysis

Big thanks to Donate Life California for coordinating this event and Astellas Transplant for sponsoring.


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More Than Just a Climb…

February 25, 2010

This Sunday, some of our favorite supporters and organ donation advocates from the Revive Hope crew are going to get a little exercise climbing all the way to the top of the infamous John Hancock building here in Chicago. For Steve Ferkau and Melissa Simon, the annual Hustle Up the Hancock event is far more than an early Sunday morning workout – it’s a tribute to the individual’s that helped save their lives through the power of organ donation.

Last week, I shared Melissa’s post detailing her anticipation around meeting her donor family. Yesterday, Melissa also shared some insight into just how important the Hustle event will be this year with her donor family there to cheer her on.

Melissa Simon with Steve's Climbing Crew - Kari's Klimbers

We wish Steve, Melissa and all the climbers the best of luck this week!


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What “Thanks” Means to Me

November 24, 2009

Back in August, we unveiled Illinois’ 2010 Donate Life Rose Parade Float Rider, Anne Gulotta.  She will be paying tribute to her husband Jay, who was a donor in 2002 in addition to honoring Cameron Chana of Clarendon Hills, Ill. who was a donor earlier this year. Both Cameron and Jay will be represented through floragraphs on the Float.

From now through December, we’ll feature a series of posts from Anne and the Chana family to help provide insight into what it means to honor organ/tissue donors and help promote the issue on a national scale through the Float.

At previous meetings with Anne, she has continually mentioned the theme of “thanks” in regard to the feelings that arise when we think of those that have given the gift of life. In light of Thanksgiving, I asked Anne to provide some further insight on the theme.

Thank you Anne and Happy T-Day and safe travels to all!


What “Thanks” Means to Me

Anne Gulotta

I’m very excited to share my journey with you to the 2010 Rose Bowl Parade.  As you may know, Steve Ferkau has passed the baton to me this year, and promised to teach me the crucial parade float crowd wave.   I’ve known Steve since 2005 when we met after a photo shoot for the annual Gift of Hope calendar.

Soon after, Steve and I were presenting together, quickly earning our reputation as  the Dynamic Duo.  I talk about my experience as a donor family and wife, and Steve talks about the lifesaving double lung transplant he received from his donor, Kari. For that he is grateful, and gives thanks every day of his life.

You may have seen a rendition of the float A New Life Rises. A phoenix rises from the ashes bringing hope to others. My son JR is an aspiring singer songwriter.  He said to me one day; “Mom, in memory of dad and in honor of the lives he saved I’m writing a song.”  The melody came quickly, but the words did not.  How would he express the loss of his father, and still honor those who received the gift of life?  It was pretty easy for him once he gave it some thought, and soon “Thank You” was written.

In just a few days we will all give thanks to the bountiful meal put in front of us.  At our house we are pretty traditional. Turkey, stuffing (two kinds), potatoes (two kinds), and a bunch of other stuff including homemade pumpkin pie. It’s a tradition in our house to go around the table and give thanks for something that has brought meaning to our lives. JR puts it eloquently in the song when he writes and I paraphrase;  ” Of all these thoughts holding me, I  feel strength in belief of a new life rising out of me, I can see hope in what I need, a purpose driving me.”

After Jay (my husband of 18 years) died I felt very alone, but soon I was involved with Gift of Hope delivering a message of hope, love, and strength.  I’m grateful for the strength to tell my story, and the purpose that now drives me to tell my story.  Sometimes we need to reach deep into our souls to look past hurt and grief to find the good and be thankful.

Jay saved many lives. His left kidney recipient is Julie. Julie would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the gift of life Jay gave to her. I’ve gotten to know Julie quit well, and I will write more about  that later. I give thanks to Jay every day. Julie is an extraordinary human being. She is kind, loving, and strong. Julie, her husband Ed, and all their friends and family give thanks to organ donation, because Jay lives on. Julie is a testimony to that.

Organ donation has a ripple effect. So many lives have been touched by the gift of life that one person gave. Jay’s heart was given to a 55-year-old man, his right kidney to a 16-year-old girl, and he gave someone sight. He donated tissue too and part of his liver was donated. Life carries on, and the relationships I have formed in the past seven years are precious. I am very close to JR and my daughter Elizabeth, and although I lost my best friend and husband, I have a new friend in Julie. I say thank you to them all.

Enjoy this holiday season. Eat the turkey and savor the pumpkin pie, and when you wake up each morning, give thanks for something in your life.


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In-Depth Interview with Double Lung Transplant Recipient

June 10, 2009

Steve Ferkau

Last week, we mentioned that Cathy Doheny at the Examiner has been doing a series of posts about organ and tissue donation. Her first series of posts focused on donor family member Tim Joos and his daughter Samantha, who was a tissue donor.

Last weekend, Cathy finished posting about double lung transplant recipient Steve Ferkau and his donor Kari. The series starts with this introductory post and is followed up by this interview series (part 1 , part 2, part 3, part 4).

Be sure to check it out and thanks Cathy and Steve!


p.s. On a separate note, we’re giving away 12 free pairs of tickets to this weekend’s Kenny Chesney concert as part of our sponsorship with US99! Become a fan of our Facebook page and keep an eye out for the announcement on how to win today!

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Put Your Hands Together!

May 15, 2009

We’re proud to announce that our video about double lung transplant recipient Steve Ferkau and his donor Kari (Steve’s Story – The Circle of Life) has placed second in the “online shorts” category for the first annual Donate Life Hollywood Film Festival!

In addition, HUGE congrats to Steve for being awarded with the Health and Human Services Medal of Honor for his commitment to helping promote organ and tissue donation.


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