Center for Organ Recovery & Education, Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Awards Scholarships to Students Impacted by Organ Donation

-Recipients Recognized for Contributions to Organ Donation Awareness and Scholastic Achievement-

PITTSBURGH, May 28, 2015 – The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) and Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation are pleased to award 10 high school seniors with 2015 Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarships, which recognizes individuals or family members of someone directly impacted by organ, tissue or cornea donation. It also recognizes the individual’s contributions to organ donation awareness in their communities.  There are seven local recipients (individuals within CORE’s service area) and three national recipients who will each receive a $1,000 scholarship.  The local recipients are as follows:

  • ShaeLyn Beachem (Ellwood City, PA): ShaeLyn’s younger siblings, Kyree and Nico, are both transplant recipients, and Kyree is currently awaiting another transplant. Because of this, ShaeLyn is an advocate for organ donation awareness, serving as a volunteer with her family for CORE, as well as volunteering for Children’s Hospital’s transplant camp, Camp Chihopi, as a counselor.  The camp is for children that received or are currently awaiting a transplant. In the fall, ShaeLyn plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study nursing. 
  • Jared Burk (Apollo, PA):  At only two months old, Jared was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that required him to be put on the transplant waiting listing for a liver. Since his transplant in 1998, Jared has dedicated a vast amount of his time to promoting organ donation awareness. Jared has been involved in Team Pittsburgh, the local team for the US Transplant Games, since the age of 4. He has also served as a volunteer with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Liver Foundation and at Forbes Regional Hospital in support of organ donation awareness. Jared plans to attend Penn State New Kensington in the fall, and major in either biological engineering or molecular biology.
  • Julianna D’Alfonso (Greenville, PA):  Julianna’s father was an organ donor in 2001, donating both kidneys and his liver that saved the lives of three people. Julianna and her family continue to promote organ donation awareness by sharing her father’s story whenever they can. Julianna is also the co-chairwoman of the Michael A. D’Alfonso Memorial Foundation in memory of her father. Julianna plans to attend Edinboro University this fall and major in Early Childhood Education. 
  • Danielle Kappeler (Pittsburgh, PA):  Danielle received a liver transplant and second chance at life in 2003. Danielle continues to promote organ donation awareness by sharing her story, educating others about organ donation on social media and participating in the annual Izzie’s Dash for Donation sponsored by the Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation.  Danielle is also passionate about helping others, serving as a volunteer fire fighter Evergreen Fire Company. In the fall, Danielle will attend the Community College of Allegheny County to study nursing, inspired by all of the wonderful nurses she had when she received her transplant. 
  • Antonela Kasic (Pittsburgh, PA):  Born in Croatia, Antonela was in need of a small bowel transplant when she was only a year old.  After spending a year in the hospital, her parents made the decision to move to the United States, where six years later, she received a small bowel transplant at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  Her body unfortunately rejected the organ shortly thereafter. Antonela is now, once again, on the transplant waiting list. Antonela continues to tell her story to promote organ donation awareness as an active CORE volunteer. She has addressed Congress in regards to a bill promoting the topic of organ donation. Antonela also serves as a volunteer with the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, both at the hospital and for its Camp Chihopi. In the fall, Antonela will attend Duquesne University and major in Biology to become a Physician’s Assistant in Anesthesiology. 
  • Lauren Margliotti (Pittsburgh, PA):  Lauren’s father received a liver transplant was she was only 10 years old. This opened her eyes to importance of organ donation awareness and compelled her to become an advocate for this cause.  Lauren is now a CORE volunteer, and helped to coordinate a “Donate Life Week” at her high school, Baldwin High School. In the fall, Lauren will continue her studies at Duquesne University in Health Management Systems. While at Duquesne, Lauren hopes to start an organ donation awareness club. 
  • Jake Thomas (Bridgeville, PA): Jake’s father received a kidney 10 years ago from his uncle. Another uncle of his also received a kidney transplant before he was born, so organ donation was a frequent topic among this family. Jake regularly promotes organ donation by discussing the topic with those around him and encouraging his friends to sign up as organ donors when they received their driver’s licenses. He also designed a bracelet in honor of his father that his entire family wears. Jake plans to study business at West Virginia University this fall.

2015 National Scholarship recipients (individuals outside of CORE’s service area):

  • Emmalyn Brown (Athens, OH):  Since receiving her liver transplant in 2007, Emmalynn began volunteering with many organizations to help promote organ donation awareness. She is an active volunteer for Lifeline of Ohio, an organ procurement organization serving 37 Ohio counties and two counties in West Virginia, and was a Donate Life float rider in the 2011 Rose Parade and been involved in the Transplant Games of America.  She also helped to begin a chapter of Students for Organ Donation at Ohio University and has worked with a state representative from Ohio to draft a bill mandating organ donation education in Ohio public schools. Emmalyn will attend the University of Iowa in the fall to study creative writing and French. 
  • Reilly Harrington (Dublin, OH): Reilly’s sister died in 2002 and was an organ and tissue donor who saved and enhanced the lives of many others through her gifts.  Her sister’s dream was to become a nurse, and following her death, Reilly was inspired by this, and wanted to help others just like her sister wanted to and become a nurse herself. Reilly currently volunteers with Lifeline of Ohio, an organ procurement organization serving 37 Ohio counties and two counties in West Virginia, and nearby Riverside Hospital. She was also a Young Life ministry leader at her high school. In the fall, Reilly will attend the University of Kentucky and major in nursing, to fulfill both her dream and her sister’s dream of helping others.
  • Deanna Slifka (Youngstown, OH): In 2012, after Deanna’s baby daughter was delivered stillborn, she and her husband made the courageous decision to allow her new daughter, Sophia, to become a heart valve donor. Since then, Deanna has become an organ donation advocate as an active volunteer for Lifebanc, the organ procurement organization serving Northeast Ohio. She knows that in telling her story, she is helping to save the lives of others by promoting organ donation awareness.  She sits on Lifebanc’s Donor Family Council and was recently added to its Bereavement Call Team, which allows her to connect with families who have recently experienced a death and have been involved in the donation process. She also co-facilitates a grief support group through her church called GriefShare. Deanna is currently halfway through her Master’s Degree in Counseling, with her ultimate goal being to provide free bereavement services to those who have experienced the loss of a child.

“The recipients of this year’s Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship each have extremely inspiring, impactful stories about how organ donation has touched their lives—as both donor families and recipients,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE.  “As individuals directly impacted by donation, they are some of our strongest advocates about the importance of registering to become an organ donor, and also to educate others on this important cause.  We are pleased to congratulate them on their achievements and present them with these scholarships to help further their education.”

Applicants of The Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship were required to submit essays, two letters of recommendation and an acceptance letter from college, university, trade or technical school for the 2015-2016 school year.  Scholarship recipients are selected by CORE, as CORE supports Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation, which was established to enrich the lives of children and families with chronic illnesses by providing fun-filled activities and outings that create normalcy and laughter during stressful times.  For more information, visit

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 health care 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 155 hospitals and almost six 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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