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50 Stories to Honor 50 Years

Fifty for 50: 50 stories honoring 50 years

Gift of Life Michigan has touched thousands of lives since its inception in 1971, bringing the hope of healing and a second chance at life for people throughout Michigan and across the U.S.

The stories from people who have been saved, and from the families of donors who so generously provided these gifts of life, are always touching, bittersweet and inspirational.

Please join us in honoring 50 years of lives saved by reading and sharing some of the stories (below) that touched the lives and hearts of so many people. Chef Oliver Hale is a two-time kidney recipient.

  • Oliver Hale had just won his first tennis tournament and was looking forward to more competitions. Despite regular, rigourous exercise, he learned two weeks later that his kidneys were failing and he needed a transplant. Now an award-winning chef, "Chef O" is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives. Read his story.   
  • Dominick Anastasi was stunned to learn he needed not one new organ, but five. Multi-visceral transplants are so rare, only about 200 take place annually in the world. One year after his, Dominick is gaining strength and once again playing catch with his sons. Read Dominick's story.  
  • Minorities tend to face longer odds in finding a matched donor and spend more time on the waiting list. Jean Washington, a teacher and coach, hopes her strong support system will help her buck the odds. Read her storyAmaia Edmond
  • Eleven years ago, John Edmond got the call every parent dreads: his 7-year-old daughter, Amaia, had been shot and was not likely to recover. Amaia was a donor here, saving five lives with her gifts. Her father took her legacy even futher, advocating for a better world and encouraging people to sign up as donors. Read John's story. 
  • Evan Kimble enjoyed helping others. When the 18-year-old tragically lost his life, his parents, Ward and Lydia dedicated theirs to giving back to the community -- and signing up 4,444 donors in honor of their son's jersey number. Read their story
  • Dale Milford has always been a man of strong faith, but he said his transplant journey -- or, more accurately, journeys -- elevated his calling. After three liver transplants, he said he's healthier than ever and has dedicated his life to helping others. Read Dale's story. 
  • Alex-Michael Springer fought through some adversity in his life and had a bright future ahead of him. When a tragedy cut his life short at the age of 24, a decision he made when he was younger saved the lives of five people. Read Alex-Michael's story.   
  • Earl James thought he just had a bad case of the flu when he went to an urgent care clinic in December of 2016 -- and learned he was in end stage renal failure. Fortunately, Earl's younger brother Harrell was a willing donor and a good match. Four years later, Earl has started his own business and is looking forward to a future he nearly didn't have. Read Earl's story. 
  • Jud Lynch found a surprising hero when he needed a new kidney: the stylist who had been cutting his hair for years. "When I heard he was sick and needed a kidney, something clicked in me," said Becky Richard, who ultimately proved to be a good match. "I thought: 'I'm doing this. This is my thing.'" Read their story. 
  • Mark Otto didn't have much time left when a gifted liver proved to be a good match for him. "It was as bad as it could get in the end. My surgeon told me I probably only had a couple weeks to go," he said. Two decades later, Otto is healthy, coaching his son's baseball team and has run a marathon in honor of his donor. Read Mark's story.  
  • "I like taking on challenges," says Sarah Ann Scantamburlo. The Novi resident has faced several in her life: she's had three kidney transplants, but stays active -- with help from a knee reconstructed with donated tissue. As she nears completion of her PHD, she's looking forward to her next opportunity. Read Sarah's story.   
  • Shane Sena's life was tragically cut short, but his legacy lives on in the five people he saved as an organ donor. "He wanted to help people live," said his mother, Marie, who thinks of her son as her family's hero. Read Shane's story.  
  • Mohamed El-Souri went from being an active, healthy 15-year-old to needing a heart transplant within about six months during the winter of 2017. Now 18 and studying neuroscience at Wayne State University, he wants to use his experience to break down cultural barriers and help others. Read Mohamed's story. 
  • Rebecca Anderson has watched her daughter graduate from college and get married. She's celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary and taken her dream vacation and is ready for new adventures -- and it's all because someone said 'yes' to organ donation. Read Rebecca's story. 
  • When Heather and Todd Luchies first started dating more than 25 years ago, they knew Heather would one day need a kidney transplant. Fortunately, the couple were a perfect match -- in more way than one. Read about Heather and Todd. 
  • Katy Rozman has a message for young transplant recipients or young people waiting for a life-saving organ: you are not alone. Now 31, Katy has had three heart transplants and a kidney transplant in her life, beginning at age 9. Now, she wants her journey to inspire others. Read Katy's story. 
  • Family and friends were shocked when a sudden heart attack claimed the life of Murphy Ainsworth in March, 2021. The 28-year-old had always been fit, healthy and active. He was a giver, too, and his final act of generosity saved and healed others. Read Murphy's story. 
  • Aimee Cruz has gone through plenty of challenges in her life, but she is determined to keep a positive spirit and to stay strong for her daughter, Veronica. After three liver transplants, she said she hopes her health issues are behind her and she's looking forward to living her life. Read Aimee's story.  
  • Birthdays can be a bittersweet occasion for Leah Howell. As she and her family celebrate her life every year, they also remember the donor who gave her the ultimate gift -- a new kidney -- more than 16 years ago. Now, she's determined to live out the legacy of a man she never had the chance to meet. Read Leah's story. 
  • Stephen May might have taken his motto, "Everybody Love Everybody," from a Will Ferrell movie, but he fully embraced the concept of kindness and compassion in life. When his life was tragically cut short at the age of 17, those three words became a legacy larger than anyone would have imagined. Read Stephen's story.  
  • Kay Walters refused to accept her doctor's grim diagnosis when her heart started to fail when she was only 38 years old. "I thought: well, that's ridiculous. I've got a young child by myself. I gotta be here," she said. She received a donated heart when she was 45 and, nearly 24 years later, celebrated her 70th birthday. Read Kay's story.   
  • Marty Townsend was so friendly, he never met a stranger. When he passed suddenly after a stroke, the decision to donate was a no-brainer, according to his daughter, Kimberly. "There was no question that that was what he would have done," she said. Read Marty's story. 
  • Keisha Dulin was born with a rare condition that caused her to have two open heart surgeries before she was 8 years old. With a new heart, she's hoping for health and healing in 2021. Read Keisha's story 
  • Bobby Ramos was a registered donor when his life was tragically cut short at the age of 23. His decision to donate not only helped others, it gave his family a new perspective on life after loss. Read Bobby's story. 
  • A rare kidney disease took both of her kidneys, but it barely slowed Acacia Walter-Rooks down. With a kidney donated by a family friend, she was able to graduate high school and now has a bright future ahead of her. Read Acacia's story.  
  • Sonya Cook received the gift of a kidney transplant from a 2-year old donor, giving her the chance to raise her own daughter. "I couldn't understand why God would take this child into his arms so that she could save my life," she said. Read Sonya's story

Tell Us Your Story

Have you been touched by organ, tissue, or cornea donation? If you have a loved one or friend who gave the gift of life, you’ve received a transplant or you are still waiting for that second chance, we want to hear your story. Sharing these stories of hope and inspiration can lead to more lives saved and more donors honored. Send your story to Scott Spielman at sspielman@golm.org