Families of Donors Pause to Remember Their Loved Ones at A Special Place Ceremony

Annual memorial service honors the heroes who give the gift of life

CHARLESTON, W.VA., Sept. 24, 2018 – On Sunday, Donate Life West Virginia and the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) honored the everyday heroes who gave the selfless gift of life during its annual A Special Place ceremony, held at the Clay Center in Charleston, West Virginia.

For the seventh year in a row, the event brought together the families of West Virginia organ, tissue and cornea donors who have saved or improved the lives of transplant patients in the past year. The families of more than 30 West Virginia donors attended the moving event.

“A Special Place marks the passing of the brave, selfless people in donor families who said ‘yes’ to organ, tissue and cornea donation across West Virginia,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO, CORE. “In doing so, they gave someone else a second chance at life, or an even better life. It is a truly selfless gift, and a legacy that will never be forgotten.”

Hilda Halstead, Donor Mom

Guest speakers at the event included Hilda Halstead of Charleston, a donor mom. As an adult, Hilda’s daughter, Nadya, struggled with everyday life and became addicted to drugs. She died of an overdose, and her family made the decision to turn this tragedy into a time of hope for those waiting for a life-saving transplant. Nadya saved five individuals by donating her heart, lungs, liver and both kidneys.

Calvin Woods, Kidney RecipientCalvin Woods of Dunbar was diagnosed with kidney disease nearly 20 years ago. Last year, his kidney function required dialysis. He didn’t know if he would be well enough to receive a kidney transplant or continue working to support his family. In March, he received the call that changed everything — a match had been found.

Debbie Donnellan is a kidney waiting list candidate. A Clarksburg resident, she was diagnosed at birth with infantile Leber amaurosis, which caused blindness and kidney failure. Today, she receives support from Tulgey, her service dog, a lab/golden retriever mix. She also gives back through tutoring blind students. She has avoided dialysis through a strict diet but knows this is not a solution forever and hopes to receive a kidney before her health declines.

Prior to the ceremony, family members pinned quilt squares in remembrance of their loved ones. CORE also hosted a butterfly release at the end of the event in honor of the 2017 donors.

Nearly 115,000 people nationwide are waiting for a life-saving transplant. Each donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and improve the lives of nearly 75 people through cornea and tissue donation.


Calvin Woods, Kidney Recipient


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About CORE

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the United States. CORE works closely with donor families and designated healthcare professionals to deliver the gift of hope by coordinating the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also facilitates the computerized matching of donated organs, tissues and corneas. With headquarters in Pittsburgh and an office in Charleston, West Virginia, CORE oversees a region that encompasses 150 hospitals and more than 5 million people throughout western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, NY. For more information, visit or call 1-800-DONORS-7.


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