Tag Archives: Transplant Games of America

6 People Who Inspire Us With Courage, Strength and Selflessness

Our signature fundraising gala Live It Up! kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 23, 2016 with a VIP reception for our generous sponsors and this year’s Live It Up! Awardees. Doors for the main event open at 7 p.m. Get your tickets today!


Each year we honor individuals who have impacted our organization and their communities with their bravery, selflessness and strength with our annual Help, HOPE and Live Awards.

This year’s Help Award goes to…The Zeldathon Team for excellence in fundraising.

In December 2015, a group of avid video game players and live streamers joined forces for a 150-hour “The Legend of Zelda” gaming marathon. Streaming their activities live, the gamers collected donations for HelpHOPELive throughout the course of the marathon. Gamers encouraged donations from viewers at home by initiating “donation trains” and incentives, turning watching gameplay into an interactive and collaborative philanthropic experience.

Zeldathon Hope raised over $250,000 for HelpHOPELive through the generosity of contributors in over 40 countries. The funds raised were used to meaningfully contribute to HelpHOPELive’s mission to support community-based fundraising support for people with unmet medical and related expenses due to cell and organ transplants or catastrophic injuries and illnesses and to provide one-time emergency assistance grants for families facing an immediate financial need due to a medical crisis.

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“We pursued HelpHOPELive because we wanted to work with a charity that could make a direct impact through donations,” explained Zeldathon executive director Matthew Moffit. “We’re creating something more than just a marathon – it’s a real community, dedicated to the forces of good.”

Moffit, Zeldathon assistant director Liz and spokesperson Brooke are among the dedicated gamers who devoted their personal time to planning, managing and streaming the nonstop gaming marathon. They hope to support HelpHOPELive’s mission again during a future Zeldathon.

The HOPE Award goes to…Maria Weaver-Hollowniczky and Elizabeth Casperite for living donation and organ donor awareness.

Liz Casperite was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2005. Her kidneys grew from fist-sized to football-sized. She joined the transplant waiting list in 2013, facing an average wait time of 4 or 5 years.

Liz and her family initiated a social media push to help Liz cut her wait short by finding a living kidney donor. Maria Weaver-Hollowniczky, a friend of a friend, saw Liz’s social media efforts and felt moved to step forward as a potential living donor.

Liz received the gift of life from Maria on September 17, 2015. Liz and Maria became inseparable during transplant preparations and have stood by each other ever since, partnering to share their story and lobby Congress in support of living donor protection legislation. They attended the 2016 Transplant Games in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Fundraising with HelpHOPELive will be an ongoing effort for Liz, who still faces post-transplant medical expenses from co-pays and travel for follow-up appointments to a lifetime of expensive antirejection medications. Liz must maintain Medicare A and B coverage until 2018 to financially protect Maria in case of post-transplant complications—something they hope to change for future living donors through their advocacy of the Living Donor Protection Act.

The Live Award goes to…John Michael LeMoine for inspiration after injury.

In July 2014, John Michael LeMoine was an Air Force airman enrolled in a firefighting technical school. On a day off, John was goofing around on the beach with his buddies. To avoid hitting a child playing on the beach, John jumped into the air to try to flip over him. He kept the child safe but shattered his cervical spine in the process.

It took six weeks of intensive therapy before John could wiggle his big toe.

John devoted himself to exercise-based therapy. Once insurance stopped covering his physical therapy, he turned to HelpHOPELive to fundraise for a lifetime of out-of-pocket medical and related expenses. In March 2015, John was able to stand independently for the first time since his injury.

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John and his mother, Lori, document his progress and his post-injury adventures, including skydiving, off-roading and adaptive sports with support from the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. “He can now make a sandwich,” Lori wrote in February 2016. “It seems so simple, but this was an impossible task before. These small achievements give him his independence back.” John embodies what it takes to build an engaged, motivated and multi-faceted new life after injury.

This year’s awardees will be honored at Valley Forge Military Academy’s Mellon Hall on September 23 from 7 to 11 p.m. among HelpHOPELive’s generous local supporters, board, staff and friends. Join us to celebrate the incredible milestones clients, volunteers and donors achieved in 2016!

Let the games begin! Celebrating the gift of life in Texas

Houston1-1-This weekend marks the start of the Transplant Games of America. For those of you who might not be familiar, it’s a biannual event modeled after the Olympics where anyone who is a living donor or the recipient of a transplant is invited to compete. Many individuals join with others in their state or region to form teams and travel together to the event which serves as a reminder of the importance of organ donation and a celebration of their lives. This year’s competition is being held in Houston, Texas, and to give you a better idea of what the Games are all about, here’s a rundown of some of the competitors from around the nation in our first ever preview of the Transplant Games of America!

Let’s start with a scouting report on two Houston residents who are hoping for a little home-field advantage. Heart transplant recipient, John Cugini, and kidney transplant recipient, Jeff Timpanaro, have been training hard to maintain a competitive edge for Team Texas. Cugini is looking to take home the gold in cycling, golf or swimming, while Timpanaro will be chasing glory in the tennis and table tennis events. Both men feel like their respective transplants gave them a new lease on life, and are happy to be able to compete in the sports they love and celebrate with fellow transplant recipients.

John Heaney, left, and Shelly Artz

John Heaney, left, and Shelly Artz

Moving on to the Midwest, one of the oldest gold medal winners at the Games and his partner are looking to regain their place atop the podium. John Heaney and Shelly Artz took home the gold medal in men’s doubles tennis back in 2010, and they’re heading to Houston with Team Ohio this year in search of another victory. Artz, a two-time heart transplant recipient, was able to convince Heaney, a kidney transplant recipient, to join together for the 2010 games, and the duo has remained a force to be reckoned with ever since. While they both agree that the Games stand for more than just the competition, I wouldn’t expect them to roll over on the court. Keep an eye on this squad when the 2016 Games come to Cleveland.

Gearing up for her fifth Transplant Games is Minnesota athlete, Candy Pagel, who received the first ever adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant in the state. In 2000, Candy was battling liver cancer when her sister, Lori, donated 65% of her liver to Candy. Now 14 years later, Candy is 100% ready to battle her opponents on the volleyball court and in the bowling lanes for Team MN-DAK (Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota).

Finally down in the Big Easy, Team Louisiana member Tyrone Cooper has been getting some world-class coaching. Tyrone is a heart transplant recipient who’s excited to be swimming in this year’s Games. His coach, a social worker at his hospital who specializes in helping heart transplant recipients, just so happens to be Olympic gold medalist swimmer Kim Black (2000 Sydney, AUS). Though he has yet to compete, Tyrone knows he’s already a winner. “I already won the game, when I was able to have a donor donate an organ to me,” he said in an interview with WGNO.

Even more than a competitive event, the Transplant Games of America is a celebration of the lives that have been touched by organ donation. In competing, these athletes are truly appreciating their own health while honoring the lives of those who saved theirs. For more information on the Transplant Games, visit http://www.transplantgamesofamerica.org/