Izzie S Gifts Scholarship Essay

Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship Winners


Brianna Anderson

On May 9, 2011, Brianna Anderson lost her younger brother, Aaron, in a tragic car accident. Brianna and her parents wholeheartedly agreed to Aaron becoming a donor. Brianna explains that, although this was a terrible loss for her family, they have found some peace knowing that Aaron helped others. Both Brianna and her mother are volunteers for CORE and continue to advocate for the importance of donation and saving lives, just like Aaron did. Brianna participated in the Donate Life National Blue and Green Day at school and raised $270 from school employees in only one week. Brianna's mother speaks at various events, including Special Place in both Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Brianna considers her younger brother a hero.

Brianna plans to continue her studies in college and work on attaining her Accounting degree. She is double-majoring in both Accounting and Business Administration. In the future, she hopes to become a certified accountant and run her own business.

Maria DiSanti

Approximately two years ago, Maria's mother received a kidney transplant. The need for such a transplant arose when her mother suffered a severe fracture to her arm and, during recovery, she went into kidney failure and remained in the hospital for two months. Her mother's kidneys were only functioning at ten percent. Maria's uncle, Gene, volunteered to be tested and was ultimately a match. Maria's mother was lucky enough to have five siblings, all of whom volunteered to be tested. Maria was amazed by the transplant process and how the team of individuals worked together to save her mother's life. Maria's mother is a single parent and her best friend. Maria realized that without the transplant, her mother would not be here today and her mother's experience became a huge part of Maria's life. Maria dedicated her senior project on the organ donation and transplantation process, raising awareness about organ donation and aiming to raise money for Izzie's Gifts of Hope Foundation.

Maria will be attending Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, in the fall semester of 2014. She plans to major in Early Childhood Education and minor in Special Education. Maria hopes to complete her Master's Degree in teaching and special education at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

Brittany Grimm

Brittany was previously diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart stiffens and eventually will not pump blood through the body. After two years of facing this diagnosis and continuous visits to the doctor, she received her heart transplant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on May 4, 2007. As a volunteer for CORE, Brittany has spoken at local high schools, community events, health fairs, hospitals and CORE events to discuss her experience.

Brittany has been accepted to Pennsylvania State University, Behrend, Seton Hill University, and Pennsylvania State University, Erie. She plans to continue her studies in Communications and Visual Arts. She also hopes to continue volunteering and speaking for CORE in the future.

Brynn Johnson

Brynn's father was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease and needed a kidney transplant. All of her father's brothers volunteered to be tested to determine whether they were a match for her father. Fortunately, Brynn's uncle, Lee, was a match and, after a very difficult and emotional waiting period, donated his kidney to her father. Although this transplant has positively affected her father, he has faced some difficult changes. Brynn knows that she must always remain strong, stay focused and never give up. Brynn regularly informs people about donation and shares stories about her loved ones and their experiences with donation and transplantation. Brynn assists during Izzie’s Dash for Organ Donation each year by posting flyers, encouraging people to participate and helps during the event and gearing up for the event.

Brynn plans to attend the University of Louisville in the fall of 2014. She hopes to become a member of the University's world-renowned cheerleading team and join a sorority to promote the university and fundraise for various organizations.


Morgan Ray

At the age of five, Morgan's parents adopted her sister, Emily, a young girl who, for the first three years of her life, suffered from illness and never left the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Eventually, Emily became a candidate and was placed on the waiting list for a four-organ transplant. On October 29, 2004, Emily finally received her transplant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Living in Knoxville, Tennessee, the distance from Pittsburgh was difficult on Morgan's family. However, Morgan luckily had the opportunity to visit Emily in Pittsburgh and spend time with her during her recovery. Morgan describes that this entire process made her family stronger and gave them the opportunity to meet other amazing families who continue to keep in touch with and support her family. Morgan attended and watched her sister, Emily, participate in the Transplant Games in Pittsburgh. While visiting for the Transplant Games, Morgan had the privilege of meeting Izzie Christensen and her family. She cherished the opportunity to watch Izzie participate in the 50-yard dash and considered all participants inspirational. Organ donation and transplantation gave Morgan a new sister and changed her life forever.

Morgan plans to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the fall of 2014. She will pursue a bachelor's degree in Animal Science with a Pre-Veterinary focus. She hopes to eventually become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.


Emma Rosenthal

On October 28, 2010, Emma Rosenthal was only a high school freshman when she suddenly lost her father to a fatal heart attack. She and her mother, left in shock from this tragic event, struggled to understand why Emma’s father was taken from them so suddenly. What Emma came to realize was that this event would inevitably shape her future. After experiencing such a tragic and life shattering event, Emma and her mother had no doubt that they wanted Emma’s father to be a donor. Emma describes that being a part of a donor family not only provided her with a supportive and amazing community, but also allowed them to keep the memory of her father alive. She continues to share her story through speaking on behalf of the Gift of Life Donor Program. Emma received the Joseph Colfer Donor Awareness award, given to youths for their excellence and commitments to donation awareness. 

Emma plans to attend Muhlenberg College in the fall and major in media communications and creative writing.  She will continue playing field hockey and volunteering with Gift of Life Donor Program. She also hopes to continue volunteering with Safe Harbor, a bereavement program for children, teens and their families to help cope with the death of a loved one. Emma lives her life through the motto, “organ donors are life savers, and life savers are heroes.”        



Izzie’s Gift of Hope Foundation Scholarship Winners


ShaeLyn Beachem

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.

Emmalyn Brown

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.

Jared Burk

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

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.

Reilly Harrington

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.

Danielle Kappeler

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

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

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.

Deanna Slifka

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.

Jake Thomas

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.

One thought on “Izzie S Gifts Scholarship Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *