TOP L-R: Diane Milbourne, Bridget Hanna, Gail Clegg, Annette Levecchi,
Donna Shinn BOTTOM: Patty Nelson

For 13 years, Gift of Life Howie’s House has been a welcoming safe haven for organ transplant patients, caregivers and their families. It is a place where loved ones can relax and share a meal after enduring a long day at the hospital. A place to connect with others who share similar experiences. A place of comfort during a tumultuous journey.
The mission of the House would not be possible without the heroes who remain dedicated to its important work. From generous contributors to compassionate volunteers, the services provided at the House rely on their ongoing support.

To show gratitude for the vital role they play in the mission, a special breakfast, themed “Heroes Among Us”, was hosted to celebrate the heroic impact supporters have on the transplant families. The community came together and unveiled their capes for a morning of stories shared, memories made, and connections built.

Rick Hasz, President & CEO, along with Jan L. Weinstock, Chief Administrative Officer & General Counsel, expressed their thoughts on the incredible strength of the Gift of Life Howie’s House community. They also provided insights into some exciting House updates, milestones, and happenings.

As Rick Hasz said, “Whether you are a contributor, a volunteer, a partner, or a friend of the House, your involvement holds immense value for us and the families we serve. The impact you’ve made is a shining light for those on the transplant journey, and I am so grateful to celebrate you.”

Past guest, Rogina, shared her story and her experiences at the House. Rogina’s daughter, Kemiyah, is 16 years old and has been in the hospital since November of 2023 while she waits for a life-saving heart transplant. Rogina, and her youngest son, Kane, have been staying at the House to remain close to Kemiyah during her wait.

“Staying at Gift of Life Howie’s House has been a true blessing. Kane, my 19-month-old son and I have been here since March. We have met so many other families in similar situations and heard so many stories. Everyone here are warriors. I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have a place like this,” Rogina says.

It is because of our community that families like Rogina’s have a comfortable place to stay, warm meals at night and a supportive network of people who know what they are going through.

L-R: Scott Hartman, Leah Lambe, Alexa Lustig, Bill Soloway, Danny Santos, George Vivacqua

The House is grateful to have provided over $13 million in subsidized care and services over its 13-year history, never turning a family away who cannot afford the nightly fee. Whether you are a Home Cook Hero cooking meals for the guests, a generous contributor, an active participant in events or another one of the amazing community members – the success of the mission is owed to you.

Donna Nelson with her husband, Dana Nelson, a lung transplant recipient

At Gift of Life Howie’s House, guests are provided with a private bedroom and bathroom that comes equipped with many of the necessities that families rely on when away from home. Many of those guests, however, experience limited mobility due to significant physical challenges that come with transplant and request rooms that are more accessible

Approximately 25% of guests make these requests. Unfortunately, many have to wait for a more accessible room to become available.

“You never know when you go somewhere if it’s going to be accessible, so knowing that we had this room where he could maneuver was a relief. It allowed him to have his privacy and independence, and I could have a little bit of free time as well. Even if it’s ten minutes where I could read a book while he showers, it makes a difference,”

– Donna Nelson, Past House Guest

Out of 32 guest rooms, only 5 have bathrooms that are equipped with walk-in showers. For some guests, navigating over the wall of a tub can be incredibly challenging or even impossible. Many patients require the use of a shower chair, which is also difficult to maneuver in an already tight space with a wet surface, like the bathtub.

Replacing a bathtub with a walk-in shower makes getting in and out much easier on both the patient and the caregiver. Guests with limited mobility do not have to worry about navigating over the wall of the tub, and those who require the use of a wheelchair have easier access inside of the bathroom and can transfer to a shower chair more smoothly.

Learn more about our campaign in our Spring 2023 Newsletter.

Spring Campaign 2023

Support the construction of four new, more accessible showers at the House.

Coming up on Saturday, September 26th CareDx is hosting the Allocare Transplant Festival, a fun, interactive, virtual event meant to bring together members of the transplant community during this difficult period. The event will take place from 12 – 3 p.m. ET and will feature many different activities with guests from all over the transplant community.

The festival has a full agenda of events and activities, as well as multiple contests for attendees to participate in before and during the festival! Here is a full list of the live festival agenda, as well as the pre-event contests:

Pre-Event Contests (submissions due by September 19th)

To enter, click on the registration link below!

Live Festival Agenda

So what is CareDx? CareDx is a transplant focused company centered around providing healthcare solutions for transplant patients and caregivers both pre- and post- transplant journey. It is committed to improving transplant patient outcomes through innovative testing and is the leading partner in medicine for transplant patients.

Gift of Life Howie’s House is so excited to be partnering with CareDx for this special event. For more information and where to register, visit this website:

We hope to see you there!

Joanne, a liver recipient, leaves her mark on Joey’s racecar

On Thursday, October 3rd, NASCAR driver Joey Gase visited Gift of Life Howie’s House, inviting us to take part in his outreach to educate millions of NASCAR fans worldwide about the life-saving importance of organ and tissue donation.

As part of his Hand Prints of Hope event, 50 members of the transplant community covered the hood of Joey’s racecar with hand prints and special messages which he raced that weekend during the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE. NASCAR fans were drawn to the colorful hand prints, messages, and the Gift of Life Donor Program logo in the center.

“It turns a ton of heads at the race track. When people see the hand prints all over the car, they want to come up and ask us about it and we get to tell them,” Gase, 26, said during his speech at the event.

When Joey was 18 years old, his mother, Mary, passed away of a sudden brain aneurism and was an organ donor. She was able to save and transform the lives of 66 people.

A sweet message left with donor mom Mary’s hand print in memory of her son Eric, an organ donor

“Ever since that day, I wanted to do whatever I could to help raise awareness for organ donation and honor all those affected by it,” he said. “It’s not easy for the recipients, those on the waitlist, or the donor families. There are over 110,000 people on the waitlist nationwide and I want to do whatever I can to get that down to zero.”

We thank Joey and his team at Joey Gase Racing for their advocacy and support, and our friends at Medline for sponsoring this event!

The annual Gift of Life Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, a day where we recognize the compassion, dedication, and hard work our volunteers bring to the Gift of Life community, took place on June 9th.

Home Cook Heroes group New Vision Pioneers outside in the Howie’s House Legacy Garden.

The Howie’s House had the opportunity to present four awards—the Home Cook Heroes Award, the Heartman Award, the Fundraising Ambassador Award, and the Guest Services Award. We are so incredibly proud and humbled by all of our volunteers and couldn’t have been happier to honor them in this special way.

We presented our Home Cook Heroes Award to New Vision Pioneers, who, led by Jody, have been volunteering with us since the spring of 2015. Since then, they have come in 36 times to date and have served nearly 2,000 meals to families who came a long way to receive treatment in Philadelphia.

The Heartman Award was given to Janice Schwartz Donahue. Janice has been volunteering with Gift of Life for over 20 years, first getting involved with her daughter, Jessica, who was a heart transplant recipient. Sadly, Jessica passed away, but Janice continues to carry on her legacy by coordinating Jessie’s Day with her other daughter, Laura, every year to give the gift of education to organ transplant recipients who are looking to attend college.

Volunteer Janice Schwartz Donahue with volunteer Karen Barnett-Roberts.

Janice is also a weekly volunteer at the Howie’s House. Every Wednesday, you’ll find her in the kitchen warmly welcoming and supporting the Home Cook Heroes volunteer groups, giving tours, setting up and cleaning up, or doing whatever is needed to make sure the kitchen operations are running smoothly.
She has become part of the Howie’s House “family” and we just love having her with us each week. To date, Janice has contributed over 900 hours of her time to supporting the Howie’s House!

This year, the 2018 Fundraising Ambassador Award, which recognizes a volunteer, group, or organization that has demonstrated exceptional leadership in coordinating, motivating, and successfully completing fundraising efforts for Gift of Life Howie’s House, was given to the Penkala Family.

In an effort to honor his son Paulie and raise awareness about organ and tissue donation, Paul Penkala, along with family and friends, hosts an annual golf tournament and graciously donates all of the money raised to Gift of Life Howie’s House.

Howie’s House Development Manager, Sara Cohen, poses with the Penkala family.

In 2011, the family pledged $25,000 to underwrite the Howie’s House resident laundry room in their son’s name, because, as Paul put it, “Paulie was always particular about ironing his clothing.”

Even though they fulfilled this pledge a few years ago, the Penkalas continue to host their outing to support our Adopt-A-Family Program.

The Penkalas also volunteer in the House as Home Cook Heroes, preparing and serving home-cooked meals to our guests, and in the community by participating in speaking engagements, sharing their donation story, and spreading awareness for organ and tissue donation.

The Penkala family has accomplished so much and we are so grateful for all you’ve done for the Howie’s House, our transplant families, and the transplant community.

Lastly, our Guest Service Award was given to Ginneh Earle. Ginneh began volunteering at the Howie’s House in 2014 and has generously contributed over 400 hours of her time since joining our team.

Ginneh Earle, left, and Howie’s House Resident Manager, Diana, right.

Anyone who has been at the Howie’s House on a night where Ginneh is helping knows that they are instantly in good hands, as she makes sure that our Home Cook Heroes groups have everything they need, and always doing so with a welcoming smile. She often will stay at the Howie’s House until after 9pm, making sure several times that there is really nothing else she can do to help!

In addition to being a friendly presence at the Howie’s House on a weekly basis, Ginneh also has volunteered at the Dash and President’s Reception.

Ginneh does not have a direct connection to transplantation, but says that she just wants to help, and we can’t thank her enough for that. Her leadership, kindness, and commitment to support and comfort transplant patients, families, caregivers, and fellow volunteers is truly admirable.

Our volunteers play such an important role at the Howie’s House and we are so grateful for their help—thank you so much!

Since 1996, Gift of Life Donor Program has hosted the Donor Dash to promote organ and tissue donation and to raise funds to educate the community about the critical need for more people to register as organ and tissue donors.

dash for donor awareness logoAll proceeds received through fundraising for the Donor Dash benefit Transplant Foundation, the charitable foundation supporting the mission of Gift of Life Donor Program. All funds raised at the Donor Dash go to support programs and activities designed to increase organ and tissue donor awareness, including sponsorship of Team Philadelphia’s participation in the Transplant Games of America, programs and activities in support of donor and recipient families, including the Gift of Life Howie’s House.

Register Now

The Dash celebrates the life-saving power of donation and honors all of the donors who make it possible. By supporting Gift of Life and the Donor Dash, you will help raise awareness about the critical need to increase the number of those registered as organ and tissue donors. We are looking to partners like you to help make a difference in the lives of those affected by organ and tissue donation. There are more than 5,400 people men, women, and children waiting in our region for a second chance at life through an organ transplant. You can help us make a difference!

Event Details


Now through noon on April 9, 2019:

*Upgrade by March 14 to receive a Dash tech tee and running hat. Gift of Life will mail your tech tee and running hat before the Dash!

On August 28, 2017, Alicia Hoover, a former Howie’s House guest, delivered a warm heartfelt speech about her transplant journey. She also described how Gift of Life Howie’s House supported her and her family throughout the whole process. Read below as Alicia addressed the attendees of the 13th Annual Kidney Open Golf Outing.

“First of all, I would like to thank you all for allowing me to be a part of this amazing fundraising event. The family house has done so much for myself and my family over the last few years. They have become and continue to be a second family to all of us.
My father and I were both diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. This lung disease is terminal. After diagnosis life expectancy is on average 2-4 years. The only treatment currently available is a lung transplant.

On March 1, 2013 two days before my dad’s 46th birthday he received his call and was on his way to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia to receive his new set of lungs. The transplant was successful, however after a 6 month recovery in the hospital many complications my dad lost his battle and passed away on August 21,2013.

At the time of his passing, I was almost 5 months pregnant with my 3rd child. From that point forward I was on oxygen full time. I went as high as 20 liters of oxygen at some points just to walk across the living room. I ended up going into respiratory failure and having an emergency c-section at only 32 weeks in my pregnancy. I delivered a healthy 4lb baby boy. We named him Chance Edward. After 2 weeks in the NICU Chance came home with us to join his big brother Jace and his sister Kyrstin.

Less than a year later I was ready to begin my transplant journey. I was evaluated and placed on the list at Temple University in Philadelphia awaiting a double lung transplant. I waited about 1 ½ years and finally my call came. I received my transplant on February 29,2016. As you can tell my surgery was a success. During all of these surgeries and appointments my mom and my husband, Dave, stayed at the Howie’s House while we did our job in the hospital on the road to recovery from our transplants.

The Howie’s House offers so much to its patrons that stay there. We have met and continue to meet so many amazing people waiting on transplants or recovering from their transplants.

And it’s not just the patients, it is their family and loved ones as well. The Howie’s House allows all these people to come together and create a great support system for the patients but also for the caregivers. I have been on both ends and I truly believe the caregivers have a way harder job than the patient in my eyes. The Howie’s House offers support groups for the caregivers which is a huge necessity. The staff will go above and beyond for any one of us staying there.

They are genuine and care about all the families that come through there. To them you are not just a number. They know you. They ask how your children are doing back home. They know you by name. I love going there and meeting so many people, sharing our stories, eating dinner with so many people who are stronger than they ever thought they could be. I am thankful for the Howie’s House as it has not just offered a place of shelter for my family but provided me with a whole other family that I love and care about as if they were my own blood relatives. Thank you to all of you for your time and generous donations that benefit this amazing home for so many people. Without the Howie’s House there would be patients and their families lost among the health care system not knowing which way to go. The Howie’s House gives them a sense of direction and allows them to meet others that are going through the same situations so they tend to guide one another on each journey. All of you are amazing for being here today and if you take anything from what I have said today, please walk away knowing that the money you raised today is going to an amazing cause for some incredibly strong individuals. You are making it possible for the Howie’s House to offer an environment that is safe to people going through extremely rough times in their lives and again for that, I thank you.”

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