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A publication of Gift of Life Michigan • Spring 2024 • Volume 3 • Issue 1

Mallaki receives the gift of life and a new family

Ben, Karen and Mallaki Hayes

A 7-year-old boy in the foster care system was recovering from a life-saving liver transplant when two strangers walked into his room at University of Michigan Health, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

“Are you my new family?” he asked.

Ben and Karen Hayes promised to take Mallaki home and give him the care and life he deserved as a foster child. One year later, they made him their son.

It seemed they were meant to be together: Ben’s life was saved 19 years earlier with the gift of lungs.

Ben and Mallaki, now 11, share an experience and a gratitude that bonds them. Generous organ donors saved both their lives. Ben is emotional when he talks about it. “We’re very, very grateful for what we have.”

Our champions quietly save lives

A message from President & CEO Dorrie Dils

I’m an avid sports fan, so I enjoyed seeing the Detroit Lions’ historic run to reach the NFC championship game, and I watched University of Michigan fans celebrate big as the team won the college football championship in January.

When we think about champions, we typically envision athletes, packed stadiums and loud arenas where the best teams compete and a winner emerges.
Gift of Life Michigan also works with champions and winners.

Our champions quietly make a difference in the lives of others alongside our team of professionals every day. Organ and tissue donation wouldn’t be possible without their advocacy, skills, commitment, partnerships and compassion. We will honor more than 20 champions during Donate Life Month at our annual gala, which has evolved into one of our most important and inspiring events.

Organ donation and most tissue donation begins in donor hospitals where hundreds of champions at nearly every level help us make miracles happen for desperate patients.

When they have done all they can to save a life, their energy turns toward saving the lives of patients they’ve never met and likely never will.

That happens at the highest level in Traverse City, home to Munson Medical Center. We’ve chosen Munson as our 2024 Hospital of the Year for doing everything possible at all levels to provide the opportunity for donors and their families to save and heal lives.

Munson is a donation champion hospital, and we’re proud to recognize its staff and leadership.

We also work with champions who help us raise awareness for the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. Some of the most committed champions for the Donor Registry are the families of donors themselves.

They’re people like Jill Soave, the mother of donor Justin Shilling, who lost his life in the 2021 Oxford school shooting. Jill is channeling her grief into telling her son’s story — he saved six lives — in hopes of moving others to say yes to donation. Her “yes” sustains her and is keeping Justin’s giving spirit alive. Jill will receive the well-deserved 2024 Honoring Life Through Donation award.

We also see champions who care for donor families like Jill’s.

Patty Jo Herndon of Plymouth is this year’s Legacy Award winner, an honor we’re thrilled for her to receive for her years of taking care of others.

Patty Jo’s legacy was born out of her own family’s tragedy — the loss of her sister Ellen in 1997 and Ellen’s legacy as a donor. Other family members have given life, sight and mobility through the years as Patty Jo rose as a leader in Michigan’s donation and transplant community. She co-founded the مجلس عائلة ميشيغان المانحين 20 years ago to help bring donor families out of their darkness, support transplant recipients, and champion the message that donation saves and heals lives.

These champions inspire me and our own teams here at Gift of Life Michigan every day. I hope their stories will inspire you to look for ways you also can make a difference for others.

Michigan is behind other states in educating youth about donation

New legislation would teach all ninth graders the basics

A new state bill requiring a one-hour organ donation presentation for ninth graders in Michigan public schools is up for consideration in the Michigan House of Representatives this spring.

That will begin the legislative review process to potentially add Michigan to a list of other states already providing donation education in schools. The Organ Donor Youth Education Bill was introduced in October by state Rep. Felicia Brabec (Pittsfield Township).

Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and many other states already require education about donation in public schools.

Michigan doesn’t and — as a result — just one in five new drivers (21%) registered as organ donors last year. Rates in other states were double that.

This state’s teens aren’t less generous, they simply lack education about donation و ال سجل ميشيغان للمانحين. If Michigan could match the new driver registration rate of other states, we would see tens of thousands more young people added annually to the all-important Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

Gift of Life is striving to reach a point when no Michigander dies waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Growing the Donor Registry is the best way to achieve that. About 2,500 patients in Michigan are waiting today and 16,000 kidney patients are lingering on dialysis.

Last year, Gift of Life’s public educators presented the award-winning All of Us high school education program to more than 33,000 students in 362 of the state’s 1,870 high schools. Because there’s no required education, Gift of Life can only visit schools that request the free program.

Gift of Life provides in-person education to any public school in Michigan. The program is also available in a kit for teachers to present on their own.


High school students wear glasses that mimic the need for a cornea transplant

How you can help:

Gift of Life is encouraging donation advocates to write in favor of the Organ Donor Youth Education bill.

Letters of support can be sent to:

Claudia Schaafsma, Legislative Director
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[email protected]

Staff Spotlight: Leslie Casperson is saving lives Up North

Hospital donation advocate builds culture of donation at northern Michigan hospitals When Leslie Casperson talks about her job, it sounds like poetry. “I get emotional about my work because I love helping people,” she said. “I’m honored to work for […]

Evan Cotton

Volunteer Spotlight: Sixteen-year-old Evan Cotton and his new heart provide comfort

The days were long for high-schooler Evan Cotton as he waited in the hospital a year ago for his life to be saved with the gift of a new heart. Then as he healed, Evan […]

David Rozelle, heart transplant recipient

Transplant Throwback: David Rozelle

Name: David Rozelle Age: 86 Home: Kalamazoo, Michigan Transplant: Heart Why did you need a transplant and when did it happen? I had a serious heart attack in 1984 and made it to a hospital where I flat-lined but was […]

Champions Gala recognizes leaders

champions gala (1)

Congratulations to the more than 20 people and organizations recognized this year for their extraordinary efforts to promote organ, eye and tissue donation in Michigan.

Without them, and others like them, Gift of Life’s efforts to fulfill the decisions of donors and their families and to save and heal lives through transplantation would be difficult or impossible.

Champion Awards

First-person authorization: What it is and how it works

card in wallet on white background

Your decision to someday help others through donation cannot be overruled by anyone else

A majority (57%) of adults in Michigan are registered organ and tissue donors. Those 4.5 million people made conscious decisions to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry so they can save and heal the lives of others after they die.

One question commonly asked: Will my family be able to overrule my decision?

The answer: No.

Read on to learn the basic facts about first-person authorization, what it means and how it works here in Michigan and other states that adopted the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act or Law.

Gift of Life board member elected to leadership role


University of Michigan Health transplant surgeon Dr. John Magee is the new chair of the تحالف التبرع بالأعضاء وزرعها (The Alliance) Board of Directors, adding one more leadership role for him in the donation and transplant community.

Dr. Magee is also a member of Gift of Life Michigan’s Governing Board, a position he’s held since 2018.

The Alliance brings professionals from across the nation together to share and teach best practices and innovation in transplantation.

Dr. Magee is the Jeremiah and Claire Turcotte Professor of Transplant Surgery. He also is a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics.

Gift of Life President and CEO Dorrie Dils said Dr. Magee’s vast experience and passion for transplantation make him an excellent thought leader at The Alliance.

“John has been a steadfast advocate for patients with end-stage renal disease and for access to transplantation,” Dils said. “He understands the importance of patients being referred for transplant and ultimately receiving a donor’s gift that will transform their lives.”

Dr. Magee told The Alliance: “This will be an important year for the donation and transplantation community, and we will need to continue to work collaboratively to address change. The Alliance does an exceptional job … incorporating members from across the donation and transplantation ecosystem into conversations about critical issues facing our field.”

Dr. Magee has held leadership positions in Michigan and nationally for decades, including with the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) and the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan.

Grateful “Kidney Sister” leaves $15,000 donation to Gift of Life

Pat Folkertsma-Garrett left a gift of more than $15,000 to Gift of Life Michigan — one of the largest the organization has received. The money will pay to educate communities about donation and fund critical work to grow the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.
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2023 was a record year for Gift of Life Michigan with 578 organ donors and 1,858 tissue donors

Gift of Life sets organ and tissue records in 2023

Gift of Life Michigan had another record year in 2023 with a record 578 organ donors and 1,858 tissue donors last year, saving hundreds of lives and healing tens of thousands more. The 2023 figures represent a significant 25% increase in organ donors over the previous record in 2022 and a 2% increase in tissue donors.
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Tattoo on Joan Smith's arm of a heart with a tree growing out of it

Tattoos for life, hope and remembrance

Tattoos are a lasting and creative way to express love and creativity for the people and ideas that matter in life. We’ve seen a lot of meaningful ink from members of the donation and transplant community over the years.
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High school students holding plastinated organs as part of GIft of Life's All of Us youth education program

Michigan is behind other states in educating youth about donation

A new state bill requiring a one-hour organ donation presentation for ninth graders in Michigan public schools is up for consideration in the Michigan House of Representatives this spring. That will begin the legislative review process to potentially add Michigan to a list of other states already providing donation education in schools.
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الأحداث القادمة

Check Your Heart Open House

Join Gift of Life supporters from across the state for a short, inspiring program and a visit to Gift of Life Michigan’s Donor Care Center!

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تبرع بـ Life Night at the Zoo

Join us at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids for a fun night with the animals and hundreds of donation and transplant supporters!

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LIFE المشي / الركض

Michigan’s largest gathering of donor families, living donors, transplant recipients, medical staff and other supporters is an event you just do not want to miss! […]

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تحقق من قلبك كابيتول رالي

Join hundreds of organ, eye and tissue donation supporters at the State Capitol in Lansing to encourage legislators to pass laws supportive of donation and […]

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