Stories Test 1

Jan L. Weinstock, Esq., Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel

In honor of National Healthcare Hospitality Week and the House’s 13th Birthday, the House seeks to acknowledge a very familiar face and guiding force of the mission, Jan L. Weinstock, Esq.

Jan is a Philadelphia-area native and received an undergraduate business degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to receive her law degree from Villanova University and began working with a large Philadelphia law firm in the Healthcare Law department.

Around the second year of practice at her firm, she was introduced to Gift of Life Donor Program, then called the Delaware Valley Transplant Program, as an external client. Jan worked closely with House founder and former President of Gift of Life, Howard M. Nathan, and recognized his “incredibly high standards” and “his commitment to the families and to doing the right thing”.

She continues, “For years Howard said, “It would just be easier if you would come and work directly with me”, and about 23 years ago I did make that decision to transition from being a partner in this large firm to being general counsel for Gift of Life… and I have never once regretted that decision.”

Her career with Gift of Life spans more than 30 years, with monumental accomplishments that continue to impact thousands of lives. She mentions that extending the Gift of Life’s services to be able to open the doors of the House is one of the personal highlights of her career.

“When I joined Gift of Life part of my responsibilities at the time were to locate and oversee the construction of our new headquarters, as well as a “Family House”, now of course Gift of Life Howie’s House. The House represents our completion of the circle of care because we have always provided excellent care to the donor families, but this was our first opportunity to provide this type of support to the people going through the transplant journey. It was amazing the day we opened it up.”

Jan also emphasized how impactful her first Donor Family Remembrance Ceremony was, which provides the opportunity to recognize the families that supported organ donation in the prior year.

“It is momentous to me because it is a celebration of humanity, no transplant would happen without a decision to give the gift of life after the passing of a family member or loved one… These ceremonies show the families that we’re not in it just for a single moment, we are with them for the journey.”

When it comes to how she spends her time outside of work, she explains, “As long as I am outside, I am happy.” Jan loves running, hiking, traveling, and has even competed in various triathlons. She says her next goal would be to complete the swim from Alcatraz to the San Francisco Bay.

Jan’s years of dedication to the organ donation and transplant community have been integral to the success of Gift of Life Donor Program and Gift of Life Howie’s House. In her eyes, the House represents the past, present and future of Gift of Life as a whole.

She explains, “The House to me represents the past, the 50 years of service of Gift of Life that supported the opening of  House’s doors, it represents Howard’s vision, and the time and energy of our team and  volunteers, and the generosity of contributors to actually support the building and day to day operations of the House … and now, 13 years later, to never have turned anybody away due to inability to pay, that’s an extraordinary accomplishment. It also represents the future for those who are awaiting a life-saving transplant – and we will be here to support them in their journey.” 

Over 17 years ago, Sean Rhoads made the generous decision to become a living liver donor to his close friend who was suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, thus saving her life. However, rare complications from his surgery left him in desperate need of a transplant himself. Just two weeks later, Sean received a life-saving transplant thanks to an organ donor hero.

Gift of Life Howie’s House was not in existence when Sean received his transplant, so his parents stayed at a nearby hotel for nearly 3 months during his hospitalization. He knows they would have benefited greatly from the services the House provides. Sean eventually recovered from his surgery and currently resides in Canada with his wife, Keri.

Wanting to help other families like his, Sean has been supporting the mission of the House annually since 2012. Recently, Sean and Keri decided to make a planned gift and joined the Gift of Life Howie’s House Legacy Society.

“It’s good to be able to donate every year, but when you’re gone, those donations stop. If you care enough about a cause to support it, I think it’s important to continue supporting even after you’re gone,” says Sean.

Please join Sean Rhoads as a member of the Legacy Society for Planned Giving. To learn more about making a planned gift to the House, please visit or call 267-546-9812.

Annette, Nico and Cristina at Gift of Life Howie’s House

Four-year-old Nicholas, affectionately known as Nico, has been a fighter from day one. At just eight weeks old, he was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia, a rare liver disease causing severe liver damage and scarring in infants.

Cristina, Nico’s mother, and Annette, his grandmother, are from Puerto Rico and were informed that the local hospital couldn’t treat Nico’s condition. They embarked on a long journey to Philadelphia to seek the best care.

Discovering the House didn’t happen immediately for the family. Initially staying with relatives in Pittsburgh, they commuted back and forth for all of Nico’s appointments.

After months of waiting, Nico received his life-saving liver transplant at just one year old. It was only after his transplant that Cristina and Annette came to stay at the House and said they instantly felt at home.

The House provided Nico and his family a place to heal, grow, and connect with other families with similar journeys.

“I was very paranoid, anxious, and depressed, but when we came here and saw all the people who are going through the same process that we are, I was able to feel calmer and more relaxed. We know that we are not alone.”


Nico’s mother

Following his discharge from the hopsital, the House lit the way for Nico to experience many important firsts. Just two weeks after his transplant, Nico reminded his family of his fighting spirit and took his first steps in the playroom.

“He loves the playroom downstairs, that’s where he learned to walk. And we have not stopped him since.”


Nico’s mother

Nico and his outgoing personality can often be heard running around the House, charming both guests and staff. “He made a lot of friends here,” Cristina says.

For Nico’s family, the House alleviated many of the stresses tied to the transplant journey. From figuring out what to eat for dinner to the added financial pressures, the House allowed them to focus solely on Nico’s recovery.

“Having the opportunity to improve your quality of life and stay relaxed is so important, and here you only have to worry about your recovery.”


Nico’s Grandmother

Both Cristina and Annette expressed their gratitude for the people who contribute financially to support the House.

“When people donate, it makes the journey easier and more comfortable. They don’t know but they are changing lives here with donations because there are people here that depend on that support.”


Above all, Cristina and Annette are most grateful for Nico’s organ donor for giving him the gift of life, and to all the organ donor heroes that make the miracle of transplant possible.

By making a gift today, you are helping to “Light the Way Home” for the many families staying at the House this holiday season. Every donation, regardless of its size, makes a significant difference in these families’ lives, offering them hope and a path forward during their darkest hours.

Your support will help bridge the gap between our low nightly fee of $40 and the actual cost to provide our services, which is $175 a night. It will also help keep the promise of never turning away a family who cannot afford the nightly fee.

For those who donate $250 or more, your name will be placed on a beautifully crafted paper house, illuminated as a symbol of your support. They will be displayed around Gift of Life Howie’s House and serve as a reminder to our guests that there are compassionate individuals helping to ease their journey and “Light the Way Home”

When David Pierson became a donor family member in 2004 after losing his wife, he witnessed firsthand the compassionate work that is synonymous with the Gift of Life mission.

It wasn’t until he began serving on the governing board that he truly understood the full scope of what Gift of Life Donor Program and its affiliates accomplish. This experience also gave David greater insight into the services and care Gift of Life Howie’s House provides to transplant families. “Having been deeply involved with the organization, I witnessed the tremendous good that the House does,” he says.

Even after his board service concluded, David chose to remain close to the Gift of Life mission. He decided to include the House in his estate plans to help ensure that families will continue to benefit from the House for years to come.

“The House truly provides families with an opportunity to be together during challenging times. I am happy and proud to keep that going.”

Please join David Pierson as a member of the Legacy Society for Planned Giving.

We also invite those who have already included the House in their will or otherwise made a planned gift to inform us so we can celebrate your commitment. The story behind your generosity may also inspire others to take action.

You should consult with your tax advisor to determine the degree to which your gift may result in tax advantages to you, your estate, and your beneficiaries. The official registration and financial information of Transplant House d/b/a Gift of Life Howie’s House may be obtained from PA Dept. of State by calling toll free 1.800.732.0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

Caregiver Lifeline Spotlight

Mia Moore, MSW

Social Worker

Gift of Life Howie’s House

During their transplant journey, many patients and caregivers experience financial stress. Chronic illness and transplants often provide little time for patients and their families to plan.

Causes of Financial Stress

Stress can often be defined as a state of worry or mental tension resulting from a challenging situation. It can impact your emotional and physical well-being in many ways, such as irritability or fatigue, and can potentially lead to anxiety or depression. With financial stress there is an emphasis on being in a state of worry or having mental or emotional strain because of issues such as budgeting, debt, or upcoming large expenses.

Many situations may arise that can cause financial stress during the transplant journey including reduced work hours or income, unexpected healthcare costs, increased travel or living expenses, lack of savings or
unforeseen emergencies.

Symptoms of Financial Stress

Symptoms of financial stress may look very similar to some reactions to your everyday stress or worries. However, due to this stress being a result of financial issues your symptoms have a direct impact on your feelings surrounding your finances. Some common symptoms are :

Ways to Manage Financial Stress

Consult with your hospital social worker to identify transplant-specific
financial resources

Transplant Resources

Transplant costs vary and it is common for patients to use multiple resources to help pay for unexpected costs.

If you have issues obtaining your medications, concerns about medical costs or future coverage, or the cost of medical equipment, reach out to your transplant or dialysis social worker. There may be region-specific or organ-specific grants that you or your loved one may be eligible for.

Fundraising is also a great resource for supporting costs related to lodging, travel, and other medical expenses. The following organizations can aid with getting started:

Stress is a normal part of life and finances are a common stressor for many transplant patients and caregivers. If you have trouble navigating some of the resources listed above, please email:

1 BetterUp, Financial stress: What’s money got to do with sanity?, 2021:
2 Health Direct, Financial stress and your health, 2023:

Tom Fennell and his wife, Alice, traveled almost 1,000 miles from Iowa to Philadelphia hoping Tom would receive a life-saving heart transplant. Far from home, they found comfort and support at Gift of Life Howie’s House, which recently celebrated its 12th anniversary.

 “Howie’s House gave us a safe place to stay, dinners, and camaraderie. It was the complete package,” said Tom. “We were able to connect with other transplant families and it helped us on our journey.”

 Tom’s journey was unusual. Many transplant centers declined to accept him as a patient because of his age. Temple Health in Philadelphia welcomed Tom and, at 74, he became one of their oldest heart recipients.

 Tom and Alice stayed at Howie’s House many months post transplant but were finally able to return home recently. They rang the Chimes of Hope at the House to celebrate (click here for video).

 Thanks to a generous donor hero and caring support at Howie’s House, Tom and Alice can get back to doing the things they love. They have already planned a family vacation at their lake house and hope to travel to Mexico next year.

Caregiver Lifeline Spotlight

Dr. Mark Abdelmalek

Dermatology of Philadelphia

Transplant patients can live for many decades after transplantation, and with that remarkable success and progress comes a need for personalized and multidisciplinary medicine that includes specialized dermatology care.

Organ transplant recipients have an increased risk of skin cancer because immunosuppressive medications that prevent transplanted organs from being rejected by the body also lower the body’s natural defenses against skin cancer. The most common type of skin cancer in transplant patients is squamous cell carcinoma. The good news is that if detected early, with good care these cancers can be managed and very often cured.

Transplant Dermatologists have a simple goal – no one should die of skin cancer after a second chance at life through organ donation.

How high is the risk of skin cancer in transplant patients?

One in five people without a transplant will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. That story is dramatically different for transplant patients. Transplant patients are 65 times more likely to get squamous cell carcinoma than people without a transplant. They are 10 times more likely to get basal cell carcinoma, the least serious type of skin cancer. And transplant patients are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop melanoma, a potentially more serious type of skin cancer.

Skin cancers in transplant patients can grow quickly and have an increased risk of spreading. That’s why having a good relationship with a dermatologist who specializes in transplant dermatology can be game changing. Prompt and expert dermatologic care, which often includes a specialized type of surgery called Mohs surgery for certain skin cancers, is crucial for transplant patients.

What can transplant patients do about the increased risk of skin cancer?

The most important thing to do to lower the chance of skin cancer is sun protection – sunscreen, sun protective clothing, hats and sunglasses. Go ahead and make that hat fashion statement. As with many cancers, early detection of skin cancer is an important factor for preventing serious complications and death. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be easily treated in outpatient settings. The most common way to treat skin cancers in sensitive areas like the face is with Mohs Surgery. Mohs offers the highest cure rate and is the most precise way to treat skin cancer with the best cosmetic outcomes after surgery.

Good transplant dermatology care also offers treatments and medications to help lower the chance of developing skin cancer in the first place.

How often should you see a board-certified transplant dermatologist after an organ transplant?

What time and experience have proven is that routine dermatology care is an essential part of organ transplant care. Every transplant patient should be seen by a board-certified dermatologist around the time of transplantation, not because skin cancer is looming, but to start learning about skin cancer and what to look for.

After that, the frequency of dermatology visits will be based on each person’s unique situation. For some, visits are needed every few months. Fortunately most transplant patients do very well with visits to the dermatologist every 6 to 12 months.

If you are a transplant patient, talk to your transplant coordinators and physicians about finding a dermatologist who has an interest in transplant dermatology. You can also look for a transplant dermatologist through the International Immunosuppression & Transplant Skin Cancer Collaborative’s “Find a Transplant Dermatologist” tool.

Learn More About Transplant Dermatology

To learn more please watch Dr. Mark’s webinar presented through the Caregiver Lifeline Program

PICTURED L-R: Rick Hasz, President & CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program, Troy Ovechka, Jennifer Ovechka, Faith Osborne, LSW, Abby Wells, Talia Giordano, LCSW

For those undergoing the transplant journey, having a place to feel safe and supported during a medical emergency makes a world of difference. While many would agree that there’s no place like your own home, Gift of Life Howie’s House has been providing a home away from home for transplant families for over a decade.

This summer, the House celebrated 12 years of serving the organ transplant community. Since opening in 2011, the backbone of the House has been the generous contributors and dedicated volunteers that continue to support the mission.

Annual Breakfast Honors Generous Community

“It has been an honor to watch the House grow and change due to the support of this amazing community. The House completes the circle of care that begins when someone gives the gift of life. I couldn’t be more grateful to this community for helping fulfill that mission.”

Rick Hasz, President and CEO

To recognize their support, a special breakfast was held for the contributors and volunteers that help make the House’s mission a reality. The annual President’s Breakfast took place on May 12th, and was truly a fantastic morning where lots of laughs, memories, and milestones were shared. The event’s theme was “There’s No Place Like Home”, in honor of the home away from home that the community helps to sustain.

PICTURED TOP L-R: Jan L. Weinstock, Esq., Jennifer Platzkere Snyder, Esq.; Andrew Bowen, Burton John Mattice; Janice Schwartz Donahue, Karen Barnett, Barbara Katz-Chobert;Lesa Kramer, Catheanne Long

Rick Hasz, President & CEO, along with Jan L. Weinstock, Chief Administrative Officer & General Counsel, shared a few words about how integral the generosity of the community is to sustaining the House’s mission. They also shared some exciting House happenings and important milestones reached.

Past guest and lung transplant recipient, Jennifer Ovechka, shared the story of her journey while staying at the House, and the amazing things she has been able to accomplish after receiving her life-saving lung transplant.

“Since leaving Gift of Life Howie’s House, I was able to run a 5-mile race, work full-time as a medical assistant, buy a home, and above all marry Troy, my sweet big guy who never left my side. The House was crucial during my recovery. Every meal at the end of the day was appreciated, and every tidy bed to rest my head was valued.”

Jennifer Ovechka

Lung Transplant Recipient

In its 12-year history, the House has provided thousands of families with the care and services that they desperately rely on while on the transplant journey. Since opening, it has provided over $12,530,000 in subsidized care, over 316,000 meals, and over 88,457 lodging nights of care. Families have never been asked to pay more than $40 a night, and no family has ever been turned away due to inability to pay.

PICTURED L-R: Cynthia London, Dearrdra Hollingsworth, Johann Schneider, Beverly Schneider, Vivian Gano, Tom Gano

Volunteers Provide Valuable Support

Many volunteers help strengthen the mission. Rosie Lemansky, a donor family member and long-time volunteer, has been serving at the House since its inception.

“In my 12 years of volunteering, I have talked to so many of the people and they are incredibly grateful for this place. When I work here on Wednesdays, I see people that have come together that live in different parts of the country, but they’re bonded by their situation and they can relate to each other and I think that is such an important part of it. It makes me feel good to know that I am a part of this whole process.”

Rosie Lemansky

Donor Family Member

Although the journey home after transplant is much more than three clicks of ruby red slippers, the dedication of volunteers like Rosie, along with many generous friends have helped make the House a home away from home for thousands of transplant families.



Support Gift of Life Howie’s House

Explore ways to support Gift of Life Howie’s House and our mission to provide a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable lodging, and supportive services to those who travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for transplant-related care.

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.

husband and wife smiling in front of legacy wall
Betsy and Robert Horen at the House

Robert and Betsy Horen became involved with Gift of Life after Robert received a kidney transplant in 2006.

When Gift of Life Howie’s House opened in 2011, they enjoyed attending events and visiting on special occasions. After witnessing the outstanding care provided to the transplant families, the volunteers donating their time and the comradery among families, they became avid supporters of the mission.

“We always enjoyed visiting the House at special times and watching the love and caring of everyone that worked there, friends donating their time, and cooking ability, and hearing the personal stories of the people that were staying there.”

A few years later Robert sadly passed away, but Betsy remained dedicated to the mission. She made the decision to join the Legacy Society for Planned Giving to support the future of the House, while ensuring that Robert’s legacy lives on.

“In 2014 my Robert peacefully passed away, but our dedication and love for the House will continue,” says Betsy.

For more information on making a planned gift to the House, click here or call 267-546-9812. If you have already provided for the House in your will, or by another planned gift, please let us know so we can celebrate your generosity now!

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