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History of Leadership & Success

Since the early days, Gift of Life has led the way for organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the U.S. and made a great impact worldwide. Here are just some of our many milestones of achievement.

In 1974, the Greater Delaware Valley Society of Transplant Surgeons established the Delaware Valley Transplant Program (DVTP), an organization that would eventually become Gift of Life Donor Program.

Since those early days, Gift of Life has led the way for organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the U.S. and made considerable impact worldwide. We’ve pioneered legislative policies and developed best practices that are now the gold standard for how to coordinate life-saving and life-enhancing gifts.

Today, Gift of Life Donor Program stands as the nation’s leading organ procurement organization (OPO), coordinating more than 50,000 organ transplants and approximately 1.5 million tissue transplants in our 40+ year history.

Here are just some of our many milestones of achievement:

Delaware Valley Transplant Program is formed by the Greater Delaware Valley Society of Transplant Surgeons spearheaded by Dr. Clyde Barker and Dr. Aaron Bannett. The group hires Donald Denny, a social worker, as its first executive director and adopts the memorable phone number 1-800-KIDNEY-1, which would be used to identify the organization for the next 25 years.


Delaware Valley Transplant expands outreach to hospitals. The involvement of hospital professionals and clinical staff proves key to increasing organ donations.


Gift of Life’s first participation in the World Transplant Games in Athens, Greece.


The region’s first liver and heart transplants are performed at Jefferson, Hershey and Temple hospitals.


First organ donor computer program created. This groundbreaking electronic database and donor management system is utilized by more than half of the OPOs in the U.S.


Medicare certifies DVTP as the official OPO for eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE hospitals.


Forty area organ transplant recipients compete in first U.S. Transplant Games. Team Philadelphia is the largest team at the competition and sets the stage for future competitions.


DVTP expands life-enhancing donations by establishing tissue recovery services.


Governor Robert Casey signs Pennsylvania Act 102, a pioneering organ donor law that establishes routine referral for hospitals and a driver’s license organ donor registry. The Act, which reinforces Gift of Life’s role in approaching families to discuss organ donation, spurs dramatic increases in organ donations and becomes a national model.

Gift of Life Donor Medal is created for donor families.


First donation after circulatory death (DCD) occurs with donor Michael McVey, by Dr. Avi Shaked. Michael’s mother, Sue McVey Dillon is an active volunteer and a former member of our Medical Advisory Board.


The first annual Donor Dash helps raise organ and tissue donor awareness.


DVTP changes its name to Gift of Life Donor Program.

Gift of Life teams up with the Philadelphia Phillies to promote awareness of organ and tissue donation, a partnership that continues today.


Gift of Life Eye Bank is created.

The first Threads of Love Memorial Quilt debuts at the 2001 Dash for Donor Awareness. The quilt’s squares are crafted in honor of those who’ve given the gift of life.

A group of friends creates Donors Are Heroes to raise public awareness about the importance of becoming an organ and tissue donor.  Donors Are Heroes has provided more than 1.7 million dollars to support education efforts in multicultural communities to-date.


Jessie’s Day, a fundraiser for the Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship, launches. The scholarship supports college-bound organ and tissue recipients.


The Gift of Life Institute is created as a center of expertise for training, education, collaboration and research for organ and tissue donation and transplantation professionals around the world.

The first Camp Jeremy is held to offer children who have undergone a life-saving organ transplant and their siblings an opportunity to have fun and make friends with kids just like them.

Camp Jeremy 2017


Gift of Life Donor Program moves to a permanent home at 401 N. 3rd Street in Philadelphia.

The “Gifts of Life…Acts of Love” ceremony is created to honor the generosity of living donors and their recipients.


The first organ and tissue recoveries are performed at the new Gift of Life Donor Program headquarters.

Gift of Life launches Donation Champion Learning Sessions. These one-day programs enable critical care staff to become role models and share information with colleagues, for best practices related to organ donation.

Patients and Families Perspectives Panelists at Donation Champion


Gift of Life hosts the International Society for Organ Donation and Procurement (ISODP).


Team Philadelphia brings more than 500 members to the U.S. Transplant Games, the largest team in the history of the Games.  The team leaves no doubt that transplantation works… taking home more than 150 medals.


The generosity of donors in the region is unprecedented and Gift of Life breaks the national record for organ donor recoveries. A total of 439 donors enables Gift of Life to coordinate 1,114 life-saving transplants throughout the year.


Gift of Life Donor Program and the Transplant Foundation collaborate to open the Gift of Life Family House, a unique facility for transplant candidates, recipients, family members and living donors. The facility serves as a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable lodging and supportive services to those who travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for transplant-related care.

Gift of Life Family House, 401 Callowhill St., Philadelphia, PA


Gift of Life Donor Program hits a national record with 447 organ donors and highest number of transplanted organs (1,228).

The National Transplant Pregnancy Registry joins Gift of Life Donor Program. The Transplant Pregnancy Registry is an ongoing research study focused on the effects of pregnancy on transplant recipients and the effects of immunosuppressive medications on fertility and pregnancy outcomes.


40th Anniversary of Gift of Life Donor Program!

Donation Champion Learning Sessions educates its 5,000th participant.


The Donor Dash celebrates 20 years of raising awareness for organ and tissue donation through 5K & 10K runs and 3K walk.


Gift of Life Family House celebrates 5 years of serving transplant patients and their families.

National Transplant Pregnancy Registry celebrates its 25th anniversary and stands as the longest-running voluntary pregnancy registry of its type in the world.


Gift of Life Donor Program is the leading OPO in the U.S. for the 10th consecutive year, coordinating a record 565 organ donors and 1,546 organs for transplant. This is the most ever coordinated in one region in one year.


Gift of Life President and CEO, Howard M. Nathan celebrates 40 years with the organization.