Organ Donation

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

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.”

When Ashley saw a Facebook post about an ill member of her church family in need of a life-saving liver transplant, she couldn’t just scroll past it. “I felt this tug on my heart,” she says. “I felt like this was absolutely something I was supposed to do.”

Ashley, safe and sound in her room at the Howie’s House

Ashley was going to see if she could donate a portion of her liver. After testing, she was approved and thankful for the opportunity to save another’s life as a living-donor.

Ashley traveled 800 miles from where she was living in Atlanta, GA to Philadelphia, PA for the surgery. “I did a lot of research about the area and what places were available for living-donors to stay after surgery,” she says. “That’s how I found out about the Howie’s House.”

She checked in to the Howie’s House the night before her surgery and returned when she was discharged from the hospital to recover.

Ashley and her support person, Sheila, who was also able to stay at the Howie’s House

While Ashley was in Philadelphia, she had many people supporting her who were also able to stay at the Howie’s House.

“Another woman from my church, Sheila, became my support person,” Ashley says. “While I was in the hospital, the Howie’s House was an invaluable resource for her. When she was not with me, she was able to come back to shower, rest, and eat. She took advantage of the shuttle during this time and this was a huge blessing to her as she was not quite comfortable taking a taxi by herself.”

“I loved how friendly the staff was, how neat and clean the home was, and that they offered home-cooked meals in the evenings,” Sheila says. “I also loved being able to talk to other families about their loved ones.”

Sheila flew back home when Ashley was discharged. Ashley was able to have others visit the Howie’s House to support her.

Ashley with her recipient and “liver sister,” Denice

“The Howie’s House made the recovery easier. I was able to make friends with others on a transplant journey and this made me feel less alone and truly understood,” Ashley adds. “What they are doing to help transplant families is beautiful and more helpful than they may ever know.”

Ashley successfully became a living-donor and formed a close relationship with her recipient, Denice.

“My recipient and her family consider me family, and she calls me her ‘liver sister.’ Several months after our surgeries, she got to be present when her great-grandson was born. I have so loved seeing how she is living out her second chance at life!”

“I feel very blessed to have a living-donor,” says Denice. “I never feel like I could do enough to show how much she has given back to me. I can go places on my own and not worry about forgetting where I am. Ashley is one of the easiest people to talk to and is always willing to help anyone she can.”

Ashley living a normal, healthy life post-transplant

“Before my experience, I knew very little about organ donation or the importance of it,” Ashley says. “Going through this brought me together with others going through similar experiences and it really opened my eyes to how many people are out there waiting for a life-saving transplant. I did have some friends and family who weren’t as comfortable, but I just continued to talk with them about the importance of donating and what the process was going to look like for me. I would want people to know it’s really not as scary as it sounds! I’m three and a half years post-op and I live a normal, healthy life.”

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!

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!

Michelle Liu with her family who raised $5,000 for the Howie’s House with her Facebook Fundraiser!

Each year, members of Gift of Life Howie’s House community hold Facebook fundraisers to raise money for our mission of being a “home away from home” for transplant families. Some people give up their birthdays and ask their Facebook friends to donate to our cause in lieu of gifts, and others fundraise in honor or memory of a loved one. Whatever the reason, we are extremely grateful for each and every one!

Hosting a Facebook fundraiser is an easy, fun, quick way to support our mission. It’s also a great way to get your friends involved and share your story to your community.

Signing up is easy! Simply click the link below, set your goal, share your story, and press “create” to share with your friends and family!

Click here to get started!

Join the many others who have already supported us and set up your Facebook fundraiser today!

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