A Special Place Ceremony Honors PA Organ, Tissue and Cornea Donors and Donor Families

More than 1,000 Attended CORE’s Annual Remembrance Event to Commemorate the Gift of Life

PITTSBURGH, June 9, 2019 – The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) paid tribute to the 214 organ donors who chose to give the gift of life in 2018 at its 26th annual “A Special Place” ceremony. More than 1,085 tissue donors and cornea donors were also honored for enhancing lives through donation. The memorial ceremony held at CORE’s Pittsburgh headquarters brought together more than 125 donor families, CORE staff and board members, as well as the extended transplant community to celebrate and remember these special individuals who gave life to others through organ, tissue and cornea donation. The ceremony also provided hope to those still waiting for a life-saving gift.  

“‘A Special Place’ is an opportunity to honor and celebrate our donors and their families,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO, CORE. “Losing a loved one creates a void in the lives of all who knew them. This ceremony commemorates our promise to every donor who chose to give the gift of life – the promise that they will never be forgotten, and their heroism will live on.”

Every year during “A Special Place,” CORE invites a recipient, a waiting list candidate and a donor family to share their story. This year’s speakers included Owen Taylor, an organ recipient, Salma Bashimr, who is awaiting a multi-organ transplant, and Joy Krumenacker, a donor mom.

Owen Taylor, a 12-year-old organ recipient, opened up about the positive impact organ donation has made on his life. Owen was born with a rare and complex congenital heart condition, and he endured numerous surgeries in his first nine years of life. Thanks to his transplant on Oct. 30, 2016, Owen is now back to enjoying his favorite activities, such as playing baseball and basketball, hunting, fishing, and playing with his brother and sister. 

Salma Bashir, who needs a multi-organ transplant, shared her personal obstacles and the importance of organ donation and transplantation in providing hope for those who need it most. When Salma was just 5 years old, she was in an accident that significantly damaged her intestines. Salma was given just weeks to live unless she received a transplant, but this type of care was not readily available in her home country of Egypt.

Her parents advocated for her and raised the $300,000 needed to travel to the USA to receive the life-saving transplant. Unfortunately, Salma experienced complications with the organ during surgery. Despite all of these challenges, her family recently discovered another transplant is possible for Salma, but this time, she will need multiple organs to have a chance at a normal, healthy life.  

Joy Krumenacker, a donor mom, talked about her son, Eli Bussotti, and the impact he made by choosing to give the gift of life. Eli passed away in October of last year. He was a true hero, donating seven organs to save at six lives. Joy was able to meet one of Eli’s recipients in April during Donate Life Month. It was a very emotional and healing experience for both parties who have decided to continue their relationship and carry on Eli’s legacy by sharing his story and raising awareness for organ donation together.

Prior to the ceremony, donor family members pinned quilt squares in remembrance of their loved ones. The musical guest was Pittsburgh native and American Idol contestant Nate Walker. The Erik Wiesemann gave the invocation.

Approximately 114,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list. Additionally, 7,585 people are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in Pennsylvania. Each organ, tissue and cornea donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of nearly 75 people. Visit to register today.

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 coordinate the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also facilitates the computerized matching of donated organs and placement of corneas. With headquarters in Pittsburgh and an office in Charleston, West Virginia, CORE oversees a region that encompasses 150 hospitals and almost six million people throughout western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, New York. For more information, visit or call 1-800-DONORS-7. 

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