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Gift of Life Donor Program holds annual ‘Life & Legacy’ celebration in Lancaster County

ELIZABETHTOWN, Lancaster County – Gift of Life Donor Program, a non-profit organization, held its ‘Life & Legacy’ celebration on Sunday. T...

ELIZABETHTOWN, Lancaster County - Gift of Life Donor Program, a non-profit organization, held its 'Life & Legacy' celebration on Sunday.

The ceremony honors organ, tissue, and cornea donors from the Harrisburg area, according to Gift of Life Donor Program community relations supervisor, Dwendy Johnson.

Living organ donors, families of donors, and recipients all attended the celebration.

"We are here in honor of them and also sharing how important their gifts were by helping to save more lives through organ and tissue donation," said Johnson.

A donor memorial quilt was also part of the ceremony in honor of donor families. The families pinned their square of their loved ones to the quilts.

Double lung recipient, Heather Leverington, joined local heroes in the ceremony to celebrate their lives and choice to be a donor.

"Giving us a second chance when someone's life comes to an end is pretty amazing," said Leverington.

Leverington got sick in her early 20's. At the time, she was a collegiate athlete competing at the Olympic trials and had to give it all up when she got sick. Thankfully, a research project helped her by making lungs viable for her to receive a much-needed lung transplant. She is now back to competing again, this time, in the Transplant Games of America and the World Transplant Games.

Leverington received a second chance at life.

"I get to continue living my life in a better state than it was when I got sick, and someone lost their life so that I can live so it's a quite emotional thing," said Leverington.

The gift of life is what inspired Ellen Smoll, volunteer at the Gift of Life Donor Program, to encourage others to consider being a donor. Ellen lost her son to a motorcycle accident more than 7 years ago. She shared her story at the ceremony. Ellen explained that she donated her son's organs after he died. Then, she became an organ donor herself.

"Two years ago, I donated my kidney to a woman in South Carolina, and also then my sister donated hers the same year. Hers went to a gentleman in Pennsylvania. They're both doing well, and it's knowing that you can also not just at death donate your organs, but also as a living person you can donate," said Smoll.

"We can actually help save lives by someone giving that gift of life through organs and tissue," said Johnson.

According to Johnson, there are nearly 8,000 people in Pennsylvania waiting for a life-saving organ.

Becoming a donor is simple. People can sign up online or in-person by saying "yes" to organ donation when renewing their driver's license at their local DMV. Or, by registering through Donate Life America.

To learn more about the Gift of Life Donor Program and its mission, visit their website.