Gift of Life

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

Since we opened our doors, Organ Recovery Systems (ORS) has been a proud supporter of the Howie’s House and has helped us care for transplant families in many ways!

“Supporting the transplant community is something I personally take to heart, and Gift of Life Howie’s House goes above and beyond by offering a comfortable and intimate residence for transplant patients and their families,” says Matthew Copithorne, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at ORS.

In 2011, ORS made a generous financial commitment to our mission by underwriting our kitchen – a capital campaign gift that helped us welcome transplant families home. Since then, many of their staff members have volunteered in our Home Cook Heroes Program to prepare home-cooked meals for our guests. ORS also generously supports our annual Kidney Open Golf Outing, which raises funds for our Adopt-A-Family Program.

More recently, they found another way to help by sending a generous donation of hand sanitizer!

“Partnering with Gift of Life Howie’s House has been so rewarding to us, and years later our team still counts down the days until we can visit with and cook for recipients and their families,” says Kayla Andalina, Marketing Manager.

ORS was founded on a passion to help improve patient outcomes in transplantation and honor the gift of life. Their support of the Howie’s House helps provide transplant patients and their family members with a place to call home while far from their own. We are so thankful for their partnership and look forward to serving transplant families with them in the future!

When deciding to accept the Development internship at Gift of Life Howie’s House, I can’t deny the fact that I had slight hesitation. I had worked so hard to maintain some form of normalcy upon my mom receiving her heart transplant from Temple University Hospital in 2014. Growing up, it had always just been my mom and me. When we found out she would need a heart transplant, we both were not only in shock, but incredibly scared. 

At the time, I was just shy of 18 years old entering my senior year of high school. I thought my biggest challenge that year was going to be applying to colleges; however, that didn’t come close to what I would be up against. I couldn’t help but feel completely devastated. All I could think about was my old routine. What my mom and I had done practically my entire life. We would get up in the morning together and I would dress for school and she for work. I would rush out of the door to catch the bus while she ran after me to ensure I had some form of breakfast. We would separate for the day until around 6:30pm when she would come pick me up from track practice and we’d go home for dinner.

This routine was so important to me because it set the tone for the rest of my day. My mom always sent me off with nothing but smiles and positive energy. It didn’t matter if we had an argument the night before or if I was just grumpy that morning from studying late at night. She always made sure I felt her love before I headed out the door.

This was a routine I would never experience again.    

For the first three months of senior year, I spent my time going to school and then rushing to the hospital to visit my mom, which became her new home.  I would sit and do my homework and apply to colleges. My mom was very adamant about making sure I was still getting my work done and taking the necessary steps to further my education. While college began to feel less and less important, I somehow managed to get through several applications with the assistance of my mom. 

Finally the time came! After three long months, which felt more like three years, my mom received her precious gift of life on November 1st 2014, exactly one month after my 18th birthday. It was the best present I could have ever received!

Now transitioning to life after graduating from Temple University, I knew working at the Gift of Life Howie’s House was the right decision. I was determined to not allow my previous hesitation to stand in the way of an amazing opportunity, so despite my own fears of revisiting my past trauma, I accepted the offer!

When my first day approached, I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but I felt ready. I entered the gates of the Howie’s House and walked through the doors approaching the Front Desk. Everyone was so incredibly welcoming and friendly; I truly did feel a sense of home immediately. 

It almost felt therapeutic for me to be in a space that nurtured and cared for people that were going through exactly what I went through. It was a powerful experience for me to engage with families on a professional and personal level at the House. I didn’t expect to feel such a rush of amazing emotions. I am so grateful for the Howie’s House and the experience I gained both professionally and personally. My last day will be such a bittersweet moment because I have curated such great connections with guests and the staff that I hope last beyond this opportunity.

Ashley and Bobby were busy planning their wedding when Bobby became ill and required a double lung transplant. Quickly their lives were turned upside down. Ashley became a caregiver at just 27 and has learned how to manage the new life transplant brings.

Ashley and Bobby in the hospital as he awaited his life-saving transplant

How did your transplant caregiving journey begin?

I became a caregiver to my husband who unexpectedly fell ill and received the amazing gift of life—a double lung transplant. His five year transplant anniversary will be on 3/20/20, which is also our wedding anniversary. We were married in the hospital just before his surgery.

What has been challenging for you?

Learning to best manage a life that others are not accustomed to has been the most challenging. While spending time with family and friends is so important to us, we have to be careful around those who are ill because the effects could be devastating to Bobby. Despite the challenges of this new life, it’s ALL worth it because someone made a selfless decision to save someone else’s life through organ donation. My husband is here because of that decision.

Ashley, Bobby and their daughter Amara

What would you say to a caregiver new to the transplant journey?

Work hard for your loved one and advocate for them when they can’t. And don’t forget to advocate for yourself, because you are just as important! Not all of your loved ones will understand what you’re going through, and that’s okay! Make sure you use your resources to find the support you need, including online or in-person support groups, a therapist, or spending more time with those you feel most supported by. And don’t forget to keep up on your own personal hobbies. They can do wonders for your spirit and perseverance!

The Caregiver Lifeline Program is supported in part by TD Charitable Foundation and Bridge to Life. We are thankful for their partnership and generosity.

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!

Asher, safe and sound in his room at the Howie’s House

When you meet Asher, the first thing you notice is his big smile and the cute laugh that leaves it. “He likes to smile at the girls,” his mom Kendra says. “He’s such a little flirt already.”

What you may notice next are the wires attached to his stroller and the beeping of a machine that sits at the bottom of it, or the mask that wraps around his face to help him breathe.

Asher lived the first months of his life in the hospital

“Asher hasn’t followed the normal path of anything,” Kendra says.

Just six weeks after he was born, Asher was placed on the transplant list to wait for a new heart. After a prenatal ultrasound, he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when his doctor noticed something unusual about his heart.

While Asher waited for his second chance at life, he went into end stage heart failure and his kidneys and liver began to shut down. His doctors emergently placed him on a Berlin heart to keep him alive until a new heart became available. Surprisingly, on what was only supposed to keep his heart beating until he could receive a transplant, Asher thrived.

“He began doing normal baby things,” Kendra says. “He jumped from 10 to 15 pounds and became so much more expressive. He would smile and laugh while he watched people in the hospital.”

The day finally came when Asher and Kendra received news that he would receive his new heart. Asher received his precious gift of life because of a brave family’s decision–a decision that saved his life.

Kendra taking care of Asher in the hospital

Unfortunately, Asher suffered some complications from his surgery. Within 10 days of his transplant, he underwent another major surgery.

“Asher was intubated in the hospital for the first month after his transplant,” Kendra says. “He was full of fluid and non-expressive…just not himself. It was so hard to go through that and think that I may have to say goodbye to my child.”

Thankfully, Asher made it through his second surgery. When he was finally able to leave the hospital’s care, the Howie’s House became Asher’s first home.

“I love that the Howie’s House is so clean and that it’s safe for immunosuppressed patients like Asher,” Kendra says. “Dinner is always made every night, which is wonderful. The last thing I want to do is cook when I get back from the hospital. It’s also so family-oriented. It was so easy for me to be a mom spending time with my children.”

Asher and his siblings

While Kendra takes care of Asher, her family, including her father and other two children, come down to spend time with them on the weekends.

“One day we sat down in the Activity Center and watched movies all day,” she says. “We also eat dinner together in the garden and go on walks. We even went to a festival at one of the parks nearby.”

At the Howie’s House, Kendra is also able to take care of herself. She takes bubble baths in her private bathroom, uses the gym, reads in the library, sits outside, and participates in the evening activities with her daughter.

Asher doing well post-transplant

She also spends time talking to other families about their transplant care. She even learned that some of them are on the same medication as Asher. “Learning from [the other transplant families] gives me hope,” she says. “I’m less stressed because there are so many people to talk to. I didn’t realize how nice that’d be.”

Asher has recovered so well that he and his family were recently able to go back to their own home, but plan to return to the Howie’s House for their follow-up appointments.

“I know Asher may need more care in the future,” Kendra says. “And I’m just thankful that the Howie’s House exists.”

When Donna Jones was diagnosed with three different, simultaneous lung infections, the mother of four found herself in need of her children’s care and a “home away from home.”

“I’ve always been a very active mom and grandmother,” Donna says. “But as I got sicker and sicker, I was really grateful to have them be there for me.”

As Donna’s condition worsened, her daughter Nicole and her siblings decided together it would be best for their mom to have someone stay with and care for her. Nicole offered to move in with her mom and help take care of her, her pets, and her house.

Donna suffered a collapsed lung in 2012 and was able to recover well. Although she was moving more slowly than she was used to, she was able to attend three of her children’s weddings and continue working from home as an IT consultant.

Nicole and Donna in the Howie’s House dining room

Tragedy struck again on New Year’s Eve in 2015 when Donna suffered another collapsed lung. This time, her doctors suggested she consider a lung transplant. She was listed in 2017. Donna would remain on oxygen and require around the clock care until an organ became available for her.

Thankfully, Nicole was able to be by her mom’s side.

Donna received “the call” that a donor organ had become available in December of 2018 and together, she and Nicole quickly left their home in Maryland to get to Philadelphia. As soon as they arrived at the hospital, Donna was immediately taken to surgery to receive her precious gift of life. Nicole reassured her siblings: “I got mom,” she said.

Two of Donna’s other three children were able to arrive in Philadelphia following the procedure.

After her transplant, Donna spent 21 days in the ICU and 18 days in inpatient therapy. Afterwards, she and Nicole came to stay at Gift of Life Howie’s House so she could remain close to her doctors.

“I would recommend this place to anyone—it’s a comforting and loving environment,” Nicole says. “You get to talk to people at all points in the transplant journey.”

Although Nicole was the only one of Donna’s children to stay with her at the Howie’s House, the others felt so comforted knowing that their mother had a safe place to stay.

“I sent them photos and took them on a video tour,” Nicole says. “Instantly, they all felt at ease knowing mom and I were okay.”

“You make a family here,” Donna adds. “We all exchange phone numbers. You learn from others. You encourage them. You can really feel the love.”

Although all of Donna’s children could not be at her side as Nicole was, they all supported their mother in different ways. While she was in the ICU after her transplant, they visited and brought her grandchildren down to keep her company.

To help her grandson understand what happened to his grandmother, one of Donna’s daughters wrote the children’s book “My Nonna’s Boo Boo” to teach him about her lung transplant.

Donna and her four children

Donna’s transplant journey brought her and her children closer together. “This was a very emotional journey,” Nicole says. “I don’t regret anything, especially if it means that I can have my mom around. I just want her to get back to the person she misses being.”

“I am so grateful to have Nicole in my life,” Donna says. “She does everything for me. I am so blessed.”

Here at the Howie’s House, mothers and daughters like Donna and Nicole can stay together and take care of each other while they navigate the difficult transplant journey. Other family members can also find comfort in knowing their loved one has a safe place to stay during a stressful time. Donna was able to recover after receiving her precious gift of life from an incredibly selfless donor and Nicole was not only able to take care of her, but find the comfort and support she needed as her mom’s caregiver, too.

This Mother’s Day, you can honor a special mother, sister, or woman in your life by making a gift to support the Howie’s House, a “home away from home” to many mothers and daughters like Donna and Nicole. Consider honoring someone all year along by making a monthly gift. Our Welcome Home Club for monthly giving helps make sure patients and their families have a safe, supportive space to return to at the end of each day—all year round.

Make Your Gift Here!

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?

 

 

 

 

Mattman posing for a picture with Heartman during his stay at the Howie’s House back in 2014

Many of you may remember Matthew Brown, also known as “Mattman,” who stayed at the Howie’s House with his mother, Kelly, back in 2014. He received his precious gift of life—a life-saving heart transplant—at just five years old. Now Matthew is a bright, happy nine year old boy in the fourth grade, and we are so happy to let you know that he is doing very well!

Before Matthew Brown was five years old, he’d had four heart surgeries. He was born with a defect that was weakening his heart. The day after Christmas in 2013, he was medevacked from his local hospital to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and listed for a transplant.

“I really had no idea how long we’d be away from home,” Kelly explains. Thankfully, Matthew received his transplant on June 25th, 2014 and was able to stay at Gift of Life Howie’s House with her as he recovered.

Kelly and Matthew stayed in Philadelphia for 8 months—from the day Matthew was flown to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to the day his doctors told them it was OK to go home.

Matthew and Kelly visiting Gift of Life Howie’s House’s Holiday Campaign poster

During his stay, Matthew was also featured in our 2014 holiday campaign, using his brave transplant journey to help support other families like his.

Matthew and his family in the hospital as they waited for his gift of life

Four years later, Matthew and Kelly still return to the House every three months for his follow-up appointments.

Matthew says he loves coming back to the Howie’s House because it’s “nice and comfortable and the food is tasty!” Last time he and Kelly were here, they enjoyed a delicious “Philly-style” dinner—cheesesteaks and corn dogs—prepared by our volunteers.

He also loves running into Ms. Diana at the Front Desk. They always have a staring contest and a thumb war. He’s a lot bigger now than he was when he first stayed here, but Ms. Diana can still beat him from time to time.

Matthew is a happy, healthy 4th grader now. His favorite subjects are math and history, and he still hasn’t decided what he wants to be when he grows up. He loves playing video games on the tablet and on his computer, and spending time with his family.

Matthew and his family hiking along a waterfall (something he could not do before his transplant)

Matthew and his family are just one example of the hundreds that come to the Howie’s House each year navigating the difficult transplant journey.

“The Howie’s House really supported us throughout our journey,” Kelly says. “It was nice to meet families going through similar challenges. It really made me feel so much better.”

Matthew poses in front of the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art five months post-transplant

It was because of our generous community that Matthew and his mom were able to stay together and had a safe place to return as they adjusted to Matthew’s second chance at life.

Each year, families like Matthew and Kelly’s come to the Howie’s House for support as they navigate the difficult transplant journey, and it is because of people like you that we are able to be their “home away from home.”

We are so proud to have helped a brave boy like Matthew and a strong mother like Kelly, and we look forward to serving other transplant families coming to Philadelphia with you by our sides.

Thank you!

 

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

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