Campaign and Supporter Stories

Golfers from NORA – Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance

Sunny skies and great friends coming together to support transplant families made this year’s Kidney Open Golf Outing a huge success! Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to raise over $116,000 for Gift of Life Howie’s House!

The funds raised at this year’s Golf Outing will help us subsidize the cost of staying at the Howie’s House to keep our room fees low, and cover the costs of families who cannot afford to pay the nightly fee, making sure we never have to turn away a family due to inability to pay.

This year’s outing looked a little different than years prior, as we implemented many health and safety guidelines throughout the day and adapted the event to limit large social gatherings. Despite the obstacles, we were still able to raise much-needed funds for the Howie’s House so we can continue to support our mission of providing a “home away from home” for families undergoing the transplant journey.  

As our guest speaker and past Howie’s House guest, Denise Hobbie, said during the event, “On a very tough and arduous journey, the Gift of Life Howie’s House was truly a welcome respite to me and my family.”

Whether you joined us out on the course, sponsored part of the outing, or volunteered to support our staff, we thank you for helping us provide for families like Denise’s.

We hope that you will join us next year for our 17th Annual Kidney Golf Outing!

We’d like to give a special thank you to all of our sponsors of this event! Thanks to your support, our mission to support transplant families remains strong.

2020 Kidney Open Sponsors

Golf Carts

Main Line Health

Shot Gun Start and Dinner

Bridge to Life, Ltd

Double Eagle

CareDX

Cornerstone Asset Management

CSL Behring

MTF Biologics

Nora – Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance

Quick Courier Service

VRL Eurofins

Eagle

Independence Blue Cross

Lions Eye Bank of the Delaware Valley

Mohan USA

Organ Recovery Systems, INC.

Quick Specialized Healthcare Logistics

Sinnott Executive Consulting

Birdie Sponsors

Highmark Blue Cross Shield Delaware

Howard M. Nathan

Apparel

Community Tissues Service

Lunch

Meridian Bank

Registration

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP

Course Refreshment Stations

Lincoln Financial Group

Warner Benefits / HRAdministrators

Coffee Station

Lincoln Financial Group

Practice Range

Einstein Healthcare Network

Signage Sponsor

Garrison

Putting Contest

Gillespie Electric, Inc.

Closest to the Pin Contest

The Arthur Jackson Co.

Longest Drive Contest

Wye Realty Advisors

Straightest Drive Contest

Transplant Alliance Foundation

Hole-In-One Car Sponsor

Scott Honda of West Chester

Hole Sponsors

Affinity Wealth Management

Dr. Linda Barrasse

C Change Surgical

Gallagher Benefit Services

Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O’Neill

Miller Pipeline

Premier Orthopedics

Tozour Energy

Venture Jets

Walker Lodge #306

Wohlsen Construction

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows New Jersey (IOOFNJ) has been a longtime supporter of the Howie’s House mission.

IOOFNJ generously committed to a multi-year sponsorship of the Howie’s House’s shuttle program

Former grandmaster, late heart transplant recipient and wonderful friend Harold Delhagen connected our two missions many years ago, and since, IOOFNJ has made a real difference in the lives of transplant families.

They supported our initial capital campaign to help build the Howie’s House and open our doors by underwriting one of our guest rooms. They’ve helped transplant families who couldn’t afford our nightly fee with a contribution to our Adopt-A-Family program. Additionally, IOOFNJ has volunteered on many occasions in our kitchen to provide warm, home-cooked meals to our guests in the evenings as part of our Home Cook Heroes program.

Most recently, they generously committed to a multi-year sponsorship of our shuttle program to help bring transplant patients and their family members back and forth from Philadelphia hospitals and the Howie’s House.

This contribution to our mission helps provide a much-needed service to our guests so they don’t have to navigate an unfamiliar city alone or pay expensive parking fees while caring for a loved one undergoing the transplant process.

Our shuttle helps bring guests back and forth from Philadelphia’s transplant centers and the Howie’s House

In 2019 alone, their support helped us travel over 16,000 miles to provide more than 1,100 trips to and from Philadelphia hospitals and the Howie’s House!

IOOFNJ is an organization based on the foundations of Friendship, Love and Truth, and seeks to make our world a better one to live in through charitable work on various projects in their community.

We are so grateful for their support and look forward to serving transplant families with them in the future!

Theresa had considered herself knowledgeable about organ and tissue donation after seeing how it worked as a respiratory therapist, but when her co-worker’s granddaughter passed away and became an organ donor, she was inspired to learn more about the process.

Shea sitting by the pier
Shea became an organ donor when she passed away

After learning about the Howie’s House through a Gift of Life presentation, she and her family held a fundraiser to support our mission to care for transplant families. They also signed up to participate in our Home Cook Heroes program under the team name “Team Shea” as a tribute to her co-worker’s granddaughter.

“We had such a great time cooking meals for these families…and we’ve been volunteering ever since!” Theresa says.

Since her team’s initial visit in 2017, they’ve been back several times and have earned an All-Stars a plate on our wall.

Joining Theresa in our kitchen are her children and her grandkids. They prepare comforting meals like shepherd’s pie and meatballs and ziti. Sometimes they serve fun, interactive meals like “Walk-Around Tacos” where guests can create their own taco salads in a Frito’s bag.

Along with dinner, Team Shea brings games and gives guests a chance to win items like puzzle books, decks of cards, paperback books, or candy.

“We figured some of these items could make their time waiting a little easier,” Theresa adds. “No matter how bad a day they may have had, the Howie’s House guests are so nice and appreciative. It’s amazing.”

Team Shea also provides dessert!

“One time, a guest asked me if he could bring some extra cookies to his wife in the hospital to cheer her up,” Theresa says. “It amazed me that something Team Shea did—something so little—would make his wife’s time in the hospital a little bit better.”

Team Shea sitting in the Howie's House Adirondack chair
Theresa’s grandchildren often volunteer with her

Volunteers like Team Shea are such a vital part of our mission. Their hard work and dedication in our kitchen help us welcome transplant families home and lessen their burden of worrying about what to eat or where to get it after a long day.

Theresa hopes other people will become inspired to learn about the Howie’s House and its Home Cook Heroes program.

“People should go to the Howie’s House to see what it’s like and donate their time,” she says. “The staff tries so hard to make the guests feel as comfortable as possible. It’s even better than I imagined it to be.”

We had a very special wish granted…

…we have new laundry machines!

Wanda, a Howie’s House guest, does her laundry in our laundry facility

Last fall, our friends from Hercules, a laundry room equipment provider from Long Island, NY, generously donated five brand new washer and dryer sets to the Howie’s House!

Imagine having to suddenly relocate to a city you’ve never been to—you have to find a place to stay, food to eat…the last thing on your mind may be where to wash your clothes. You might not even have detergent, a laundry basket, or quarters to put into machines at the laundromat.

Because our guests can take the stairs or elevator right to our laundry room, they don’t have to worry about how to get their personal belongings to and from a laundromat. This convenience helps make the Howie’s House feel like “home” and gives our guests more time to focus on what’s most important—taking care of themselves and their loved ones.

“What the Gift of Life Howie’s House provides to its residents and their families, in terms of support and inspiration, is truly heartwarming,” Andrew May, President and CEO at Hercules, says.

Joe Kauffman, Howie’s House Manager, and Bob Marquart, Director of Facilities, with Tom Jeppestol and Barry Heller from Hercules Laundry

“After our Hercules Account Manager, Tom Jeppestol, brought to my attention the needs of the Howie’s House with respect to their laundry facility, I didn’t hesitate for a minute in determining how we could support such a worthwhile organization. The patients and their families certainly have enough to deal with, waiting for transplants and follow-up appointments. It’s my pleasure to be able to help make their stay at Howie’s House as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”

The new washers and dryers will allow our guests to do their laundry for free during their stay. They can put their clothes in the wash, head back to their rooms or make a snack in the kitchen, and come right back down when they’re ready to be switched.

Wanda does not have to worry about finding a laundromat or getting her personal items there—she can do her laundry right here at the Howie’s House

Thank you so much to Andrew and everyone else at Hercules who made this wonderful gift possible!

Are you from an organization looking to give a charitable gift? At the Howie’s House, we can always use a hand to help serve our transplant families. If you’re interested in making a gift, please contact Sara Cohen, Development Manager, by email at scohen@giftoflifefamilyhouse.org or phone at 267-546-9800.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To receive her life-saving liver transplant, Karen Wolbach was airlifted from her home in Burlington, Vermont to a treatment center here in Philadelphia. Her husband and caregiver, Richard, had just four hours to alert friends and family, pack a bag, find a place to stay, and make arrangements for someone to look after their home before the air ambulance arrived.

“There was no time for decisions,” Richard said. “We just got on the plane with the nurse, medical assistant, and the pilots. Everything seemed to move in slow motion.”

Richard and Karen with their son, Ryan, enjoying their time together outdoors

Karen had been getting sicker and sicker. She was growing extremely fatigued, nauseous, lost her appetite, and was beginning to jaundice. She no longer had the energy to take walks outside with her family, meet up with her friends for lunch, watch her son perform as a clarinetist, and had to resign from her job as a radiologic technologist because she was too weak to work.

Her need for a transplant had not just turned her life upside down, but had suddenly relocated her and her husband over 350 miles away to a city neither had ever been to before.

While Karen was in the hospital, Richard needed to find a place to stay. He initially booked a week-long hotel stay so he could be close to Karen while she was in the hospital, but with expensive city hotel prices, he knew he could not afford those accommodations for long.

Thankfully, someone on Karen’s transplant team told him about the Howie’s House. He gave us a call and there was a room available for him.

“A lot of people don’t realize that being a caregiver comes with a tremendous amount of stress,” he says. “It can be so overwhelming, but the Howie’s House took the worry out of my day so I could focus on caring for my wife.”

At the Howie’s House, Richard had access to all of the supportive services we offer, including a private guest room, a warm, home-cooked meal each evening, free shuttle service to and from the hospital Karen was receiving treatment in, counseling from our licensed social worker, and support from a network of other families who understood what he was going through—all for just $40 per night.

The support Karen and Richard gave each other by being close together is invaluable to the transplant journey

Karen received her second chance at life thanks to an incredibly selfless donor shortly after she and Richard were airlifted to Philadelphia. She was able to join Richard at the Howie’s House for two weeks before they were given the OK to go back home.

While Karen was here, she too was able to rest. Each night, dinner was waiting for her as she came down to the kitchen. She hopped on the shuttle’s morning run when she had to see her doctors at the hospital. She was also able to talk with our social worker and other transplant families about what she was feeling.

“I wasn’t just healing physically, but I was healing emotionally,” she explains. “It was very therapeutic to sit down and share stories. It reminded me that I am not alone. If we had to stay in a hotel, we would never have gotten this kind of support.”

Karen and Sister May, a family friend, in the Howie’s House dining room

“The Howie’s House has helped me heal, too,” Richard says. “We felt a little apprehensive coming back to Philadelphia for Karen’s follow-up appointments after all that’s happened, but once we came back to the Howie’s House, it was like we were home again.”

Now that Karen’s health has improved, she wants to get back to work and volunteer in her community, and spend time with her family.

Karen and Richard were away from their home for four months while Karen received her life-saving transplant and recovered here at the Howie’s House. At the beginning of their journey to Philadelphia, they had no idea how long they’d be away from home or how they’d afford to stay together and support each other during this difficult, scary time.

Karen and Richard received the support they needed on their transplant journey here at the Howie’s House

Without the Howie’s House, Richard and Karen may have had to find an apartment, take cabs or public transportation to and from the hospital each day, find meals and a place to wash their clothes, and may not have met any other families on the transplant journey who could offer them friendship and support. Richard may not have even been able to stay by Karen’s side while she was in the hospital.

At the Howie’s House, they both received the support they needed.

When you make a gift to the Howie’s House, you’ll help provide this support to countless other transplant families who are anxious, frustrated, and in need of support.

Will you make a gift to help families like Karen and Richard’s during one of the most difficult times in their lives?

 

 

 

 

Anthony, right, with his father Joe, left

When Anthony Vetrano learned his father, Joe, would need a life-saving organ transplant, he and his mother, Teresa, became his caregivers. They both stayed at the Howie’s House for 11 days while Joe received his transplant in Philadelphia this past September.

“The Howie’s House allowed me and my mom to be close to the hospital and spend more time there with my father as he recovered from his transplant,” Anthony says. “We’d have to drive 100 miles back and forth from our homes in New Jersey if we didn’t have another place to stay.”

The Howie’s House supported Anthony and Teresa as caregivers while they supported Joe during his treatment and recovery. “As a caregiver, you focus on the patient and less on yourself,” Anthony says. “At the Howie’s House, there’s someone to focus on you.”

Anthony’s mother, Teresa, stayed with him at the Howie’s House while Joe received treatment in Philadelphia

Something that really supported Anthony was our Home Cook Heroes program, which offers a warm, home-cooked meal to guests each night as they wind down from what can be long, stressful days. “A meal was really nice to come back to,” Anthony says. “It was also nice to eat and talk with other families who understand what you’re going through.”

While Anthony was staying in Philadelphia, he had the idea to host a Facebook fundraiser to support the Howie’s House. “My Facebook friends know about my father’s transplant and I thought I could use my experience to help other families like ours,” Anthony says.

Because his birthday was coming up, Anthony decided to “give it up” and ask for donations to the Howie’s House in lieu of gifts.

Anthony hosted a fundraiser for two weeks and with the help of the people he loves, exceeded his fundraising goal!

“Some of my Facebook friends asked me what the fundraiser was about which even helped me raise awareness about organ and tissue donation,” Anthony says. “Not many people know about donation and transplant until they need one.”

It’s caring people like Anthony that help us continue to be a “home away from home” for transplant families coming to Philadelphia. His generous decision to “give up his birthday” on Facebook and raise money for the Howie’s House helps support families like his own as they navigate the difficult transplant journey.

“I would definitely host a Facebook fundraiser again…it was so easy!” Anthony says.

“It’s hard to go through something like transplant and not be changed by it. I want to help out as much as I can.”

Thank you, Anthony, for spreading our mission and supporting the Howie’s House!

Are you interested in “giving up your birthday” or hosting a Facebook fundraiser to support the Howie’s House like Anthony did? Learn how to here: http://bit.ly/fb-fundraiser-info

What a beautiful day we had for our 14th Annual Kidney Open Golf Outing on Monday! We really sank a “hole-in-one” for our transplant families and made the outing a huge success!

Thanks to the participation and generosity of our community, we raised more than $108,000 to support our Adopt-A-Family Program, which will help us continue carrying out our mission to care for transplant families in need, even to those who cannot afford our nightly fee.

Thank you so much!

Remembering the words of Steve and Audrey, our guest speakers and past Howie’s House guests: “The Howie’s House provides you with what you need to get through transplant…and they give you a family. You feel like you belong.”

It is your support that helps us remind those undergoing the transplant journey they are not alone. While Steve was recovering from his lung transplant, Audrey was able to stay by his side here at the Howie’s House. Whether you joined us for a day of golf, sponsored part of our outing, or volunteered to support our staff, you helped make more experiences like Steve’s and Audrey’s possible.

If you were unable to attend this year’s outing, we hope to see you next year at the 15th Annual Kidney Open Golf Outing!

We’d also like to thank all of our sponsors for supporting this event! Thanks to your help, our transplant families will be well taken care of!

Golf Cart Sponsor
Main Line Health

Dinner Sponsor
Bridge to Life

Gift and Putting Contest Sponsor
NORA – Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance

Double Eagle Sponsors
AmeriHealth Caritas
CSL Behring
Glenmede
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware
Quick Courier Service
VRL Eurofins

Apparel Sponsor
Community Tissue Services

Eagle Sponsors
Beneficial Bank
Elite Landscaping
Independence Blue Cross
Lions Eye Bank of the Delaware Valley
Mohan USA
Organ Recovery Systems
The Palopoli Family Trust
TD Bank
Venture Jets

Beverage Cart Sponsor
Lincoln Financial Group

Lunch Sponsor
LifeNet Health

Registration Sponsor
QuickSTAT

Course Refreshment Station Sponsors
Sightlife
Sovereign Insurance Group

Coffee Station Sponsor
Gillespie Electric, Inc.

Practice Range Sponsor
CTI Clinical Trials
Einstein Healthcare Network

Birdie Sponsors
Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP
Christiana Care Health Services
Premier Orthopaedics
Dan Sinnott

Closest to the Pin Contest Sponsor
Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz, & O’Neill

Longest Drive Contest Sponsor
Arthur Jackson

Straightest Drive Contest Sponsor
WYE Realty Advisors

Hole-In-One Car Sponsor
Lexus of Chester Springs

Hole Sponsors
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Darrell J. Baker, Esq.
Eckert Seamans, LLC
FusionSpark Media
Linda Barrasse
Miller Pipeline
MWealth Advisors
Nationwide Healthcare Services
PermaFloor Keystone Inc
Waters Medical Systems

If you visited the Howie’s House this summer, you may have met our former Guest Services Intern, Mya, smiling behind the front desk.

Mya came to Gift of Life Howie’s House looking to support an organization that has done so much for families like hers. Mya received her own precious gift of life—a new liver—and wanted to give back to others on the transplant journey. “I found this position online and immediately knew it was for me,” she says, smiling. “It’s amazing to see the work that’s done here. I would absolutely work here for 40 years if I could!”

Shortly after Mya was born, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a disease in which a liver duct is either broken or missing. Her doctors were able to perform a hepatoportoenterostomy, a procedure where doctors sewed a piece of her large intestine to her liver to help it drain. However, this was only a temporary treatment, and Mya and her family knew down the road that she would still need a transplant to live a healthy life.

Mya, right, and her friend at the beach before her liver transplant

“Throughout my whole childhood, I was very different,” Mya explains. “If you looked at me, you could tell something was wrong.” Growing up, Mya suffered from severe splenomegaly, which is an engorgement of the spleen as a result of liver fibrosis. “I looked like I was about six months pregnant. Whenever I played outside or was in gym class, I had to wear a large plastic guard around my abdomen to protect my spleen from rupturing. That was hard, especially as a child, because it makes you very different from your classmates; it makes you the ‘sick kid,’” she says.

When Mya was 11 years old, she caught a stomach bug—something not uncommon—but this time, she didn’t bounce back as she normally did. She was hospitalized, had to use Skype to attend class, and was unable to see her friends. She also lost a significant amount of weight and was given an NG feeding tube that she kept for over a year.

Mya was on the list for 18 months before she received her precious gift of life and spent time in and out of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Mya, her family, and her doctors knew her liver was deteriorating. She was placed on the transplant list at CHOP and waited 18 months until she received her precious gift of life from a selfless donor.

“It was a terrifying process,” Mya reflects. “I remember looking at myself and thinking that I looked like a skeleton, but I found peace in knowing that there was always an end road. My mom always told me, ‘Thank goodness it’s just liver disease. We know how to fix this, and it will all be okay.’”

Mya got the call on April 9, 2013, which she now calls “the best day of the year.”

“All I wanted in my life was to not be different. I wanted to experience life without limitation and sickness…transplant gave me that and much more,” she says.

The day Mya returned home after her transplant

Mya’s transplant remains an important part of her identity today at 19 years old. “I’m never going to stop being open about my transplant,” she says. “And I won’t ever stop caring about this. I’ll never stop reminding myself how much I have to be grateful for, and I’m never going to feel like I can do enough for the people who saved me. It’s so important to keep in touch with that gratitude and never stop using it to fuel my life. That’s why I’m here [at the Howie’s House].”

Mya helped coordinate guest stays, Howie’s House programming, and offered a smile to everyone who walked through the door

After working here at the Howie’s House, Mya has changed her major to Health Behavior and Promotion and hopes to work with transplant patients in the future.

“Growing up, no one I knew had a connection to transplant. I was the only one, and I felt so alone,” she mentions. “Coming here, I don’t feel alone. You don’t feel like you’re the only one who is going or has gone through this kind of pain. I never had resources like this—it’s a really special thing about the Howie’s House. It’s a whole big family here, full of love, support, and friendship. It’s heartwarming to see how much the guests love this place, and even more heartwarming to have played a role in it.”

Mya and other Guest Services Interns, Celine and Damarah, during the Howie’s House’s 7th birthday party

Mya also wants to write children’s books about getting a liver transplant or what it’s like having a feeding tube, and has thought about starting a blog about nutrition for those using a feeding tube.

“I am definitely going to make sure this experience remains part of my life and my daily awareness,” she adds. “I’ve looked forward to coming to work every day, and to be included in this environment and in [the Howie’s House’s] mission. Getting to know everybody has been so special, and I am so grateful for this incredible opportunity and place that I will never forget.”

Something very special happened in the Howie’s House kitchen this summer.

Bryson and his family with Mason’s parents in the Howie’s House kitchen

Two families not only came together to cook a warm, home-cooked meal for our guests, but to also celebrate the life of toddler Mason Hess, an organ donor who saved four lives.

Mason Hess and his parents, Kellie and Adam

The two families were Mason’s own, and the family of the little boy who received Mason’s lungs, Bryson Palmer.

Bryson Palmer, the recipient of Mason’s lungs, celebrates Mason’s life

Kellie and Adam Hess regularly volunteer at the Howie’s House as Home Cook Heroes as a way to keep Mason’s memory alive. When Bryson Palmer and his family flew from their home in Ohio to visit the Hess’ in New Jersey, everyone thought it would be a great idea to cook a meal together at the Howie’s House. The only volunteer date available during their visit was Mason’s birthday.

“It was such a moving experience to cook with the family of one of Mason’s recipients and see how far both families have come,” Kellie says. “We are so happy that this wonderful little boy is healthy. We felt such a bond with him.”

Kellie Hess, Mason’s mother, hugs Bryson, the recipient of her son’s lungs

When Bryson was five months old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer and received 18 months of treatment, including chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, radiation, and immuno-therapy. Unfortunately, he suffered a rare side effect—progressive scarring of the lungs—and required a double lung transplant. Bryson and his family traveled over 500 miles from Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri where he waited for 12 weeks in the PICU before he received his precious gift of life from Mason.

Bryson and his family traveled from Ohio to New Jersey to meet and say thank you to Mason’s family

It’s been six years since Bryson received his transplant and he has remained cancer free. He’s also the healthiest he’s ever been.

“It feels like Mason’s family and my family were meant to be in each other’s lives,” Katie, Bryson’s mother, says. “We at least hoped we’d be able to say thank you to the family who donated their loved one’s organs. We never expected to have such a close relationship, but now we’re all family.”

Bryson and Mason’s sister, Faith, pose with a photo of Mason

The Palmers’ stay as Home Cook Heroes was the first time they’d ever been to a Howie’s House-like facility. “During Bryson’s transplant journey, we traveled over 500 miles from home,” Katie says. “We were told we had to stay there but had nowhere to go. I slept in the hospital with Bryson and kept necessities in my car in the parking garage. My husband traveled back and forth from Ohio so he could continue working. We eventually did get an apartment, but there was no pantry, no meal offered every night, and we were completely on our own. It’s amazing that the Howie’s House is a place to call home for so many people.” While cooking at the Howie’s House, Bryson and his family were able to meet two other double lung recipients.

“It’s so nice to see this community,” Katie adds. “It would’ve been nice to have other families to talk to.”

The Hess and Palmer families in the Howie’s House Legacy Garden

We are so proud and humbled that our kitchen was a warm meeting place for such a meaningful moment between a donor and recipient family. These families are a true testament to how organ donation changes lives—and it was all possible because Adam and Kellie said yes to donation.

Through the generosity and support of our contributors, Gift of Life Howie’s House is able to provide a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families.

Click here to donate today!

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