CORE and Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships to Students Impacted by Organ Donation

–2016 Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship Recipients Recognized for
Organ Donation Awareness, Community Involvement and Scholastic Achievement –

PITTSBURGH, July 13, 2016 – The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) and Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation are pleased to award ­­­seven students with the 2016 Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship, recognizing individuals who have been directly impacted by organ, tissue or cornea donation and honoring each individual’s contributions to organ donation awareness and service in their communities. Each awardee will receive a scholarship of either $500 or $1,000. The 2016 recipients are:

Casana Fink | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Casana Fink (Ocala, Florida): When her father was diagnosed with liver failure, Casana registered for the Miss America Outstanding Teen Scholarship Pageant as a chance to earn a scholarship and ease her family’s financial burden. Since winning three pageant titles, Casana started her own non-profit organization, “Give to Live, Donate Life,” to promote organ donation. She also volunteers for the Ronald McDonald House charities and serves as an ambassador and spokesperson for Donate Life Florida and LifeQuest Organ Recovery. Casana plans to attend the University of Florida, where she will double major in dance and telecommunications.
Lance Frye | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Lance Frye (North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania): Born with cyanotic congenital heart disease, Lance has always put his heart into helping others. He serves as a coach for an adaptive baseball league, mentors as a counselor for The Dr. Bill Neches Heart Camp for Kids and serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association, which has named him a two-time Heart Hero. Lance’s early years were beset by health complications before he received a heart transplant in 2014. He has since graduated from Norwin High School and participated in raising more than $500,000 for organ donation awareness. Lance plans to attend Westmoreland County Community College.
Connor Grimes | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Connor Grimes (West Chester, Ohio): Connor was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare liver disease, when he was four weeks old. His parents were tested for living donation after two years on the transplant waiting list, and Connor’s mother was able to donate 40 percent of her liver to her son. After his transplant, Connor and his mother spread the importance of organ donation to high school students by traveling to local schools. He has also volunteered for the Life Center Organ Donor Network, which assists to coordinate organ donation in multiple states. Currently studying music therapy at Ohio University, Connor hopes to help young hospital patients see hope through the gift of music.
Matthew Hanna | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Matthew Hanna (Gibsonia, Pennsylvania): Matthew’s father unexpectedly passed away in 2009 and saved the lives of three others through organ donation. For his Eagle Scout project, Matthew organized the Bill Hanna Memorial Golf Outing in honor of his dad. The event registered new donors and raised more than $15,000 for CORE to promote organ donation. Matthew currently studies civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
Amber Hooker | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Amber Hooker (Italy, Texas): Amber thanks organ donation for saving the lives of her mother, aunt and cousin. Through social media, word of mouth and fliers promoting the NHS Organ Donor Register, Amber is a proud advocate for organ donation. She has also dedicated many hours to community service with the Women’s Auxiliary to the Dallas Fire Fighters Association. Amber plans to attend Texas Woman’s University and pursue a nursing degree to become a nurse anesthetist.
Alysa Lovich | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Alysa Lovich (Butler, Pennsylvania): During her freshman year of college, Alysa’s four-year-old cousin Colbee passed away after a tragic accident. After his death, his parents registered him as an organ donor and donated his organs to save the lives of four people. Now registered as an organ donor herself, Alysa volunteers for “Colbee’s Benefit Ride” to raise money for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and helped with this year’s Relay for Life through the Kent State Interior Design Student Collaborative. In 2015, she served as a student success leader at Kent State University, where she is studying architecture.
Elizabeth Zirkle | Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation Award Scholarships Winner Elizabeth Zirkle (Belington, West Virginia): Elizabeth was affected by organ donation when her aunt served as a living kidney donor to her uncle and again when her close friend Taitlyn passed away and saved the lives of four people through organ donation. In addition to volunteering for CORE, Elizabeth started “Taitlyn’s H.E.A.R.T.,” a platform that educates people about organ donation. Elizabeth plans to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she will major in special education with a focus on autism and minor in dance.

“We are very proud of this year’s scholarship recipients,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO, CORE. “These individuals have been impacted by organ donation on a personal level, and they have channeled their emotional connection into spreading awareness throughout their communities by encouraging others to register as organ donors. These students are making a difference in the lives of so many, especially those on the waiting list for an organ transplant.”

Applicants for The Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship were required to submit essays about organ donation’s influence in their lives, two letters of recommendation and an acceptance letter from a college, university, trade or technical school. Scholarship recipients are selected by CORE, which supports Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation, an organization 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 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 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 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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