CORE ceremony honors region’s organ, tissue and cornea donors and their families

Annual Celebration of Life Welcomes Attendees Through New Virtual Format

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) hosted its 27th Annual A Special Place ceremony on Sunday, bringing together the families of the 577 organ, 2,347 tissue, and 1,505 cornea donors from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia who saved 1,453 lives and healed or restored sight to more than 150,000 others in 2019 and 2020—both record years for organ donation in the region. The memorial was filmed on location at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh and streamed live on YouTube, with care packages provided to donor families in attendance to allow real-time event participation from the comfort of their homes.

“Although the ceremony may look different this year, our intent remains to recognize the compassion of these heroic donors and their families,” said Susan Stuart, CORE president and CEO, during the ceremony. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity to dedicate this day to the legacy of hope the donors left behind, which continues to heal and give life to others. It’s what organ donation is all about.”

This year’s first-ever virtual A Special Place format upheld CORE’s commitment to commemorating the generosity of every donor who gives the gift of life, even when navigating new COVID-19 precautions. The care packages provided to donor families in advance of the livestream included, among other items, a candle, so that they could participate in the virtual memorial candle lighting. As always, the event also featured speakers who have personally been touched by donation.

This year’s speakers included:

Xyla Blackshear, a 6-year-old who is currently waiting for an intestinal transplant at UPMC Children’s Hospital. She was joined by her mother, Chanteera, who ensures that even while Xyla waits for her call, she stays an active, happy child who loves to cook and play.

Lori Keener, whose husband, Matt, was an organ donor on Christmas Eve 2018, saving the lives of eight people and healing 75 others through his selfless decision to register as a donor. She remembered fondly the profound imprint he made on all those he knew, as well as the recipients of his gifts. Lori now finds healing through advocating for donation and teaching their young son, Ryan, about the beautiful legacy his father left behind.

• Two remarkable recipients, including Ed Donovan, whose life was touched by not one, but two donors as a two-time cornea recipient, and Dale Crawford, who received a life-saving heart transplant in the spring of 2021, thanks to his donor’s selfless gift.

Dale’s wife, Molly, who is a Pittsburgh public school teacher, played a musical tribute during the candle lighting portion of the memorial. Attendees were also invited to create quit squares in honor of their loved ones, which CORE will add to one of its donor quilts that are displayed in communities throughout the region. The ceremony concluded with a special video tribute, featuring the faces of those honored for their choice to give the gift of life.

Approximately 107,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list, with someone new added every 10 minutes. In western Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone, nearly 2,500 people are waiting for a lift-saving transplant. Yet, only half of Pennsylvanians and a third of West Virginians are registered as organ donors. Each organ, tissue and cornea donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of nearly 75 people. Register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor today at