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COVID-19 has caused disruption across the globe, not only in our daily lives, but also in the celebration of special moments. Weddings, birthdays and graduations have been cancelled or gone virtual. And the way loved ones are honored after they pass is anything but normal.

This year, COVID-19 has led the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) to postpone its annual A Special Place ceremony, an event traditionally held in September and dedicated to honoring the greatest heroes of donation.

While we are looking forward to coming together at a later date, we did not want this time to pass without recognizing the lasting legacy made possible in 2019 by the 55 organ donors and 512 tissue and cornea donors from West Virginia who provided a second chance at life, or an even better life, to transplant recipients.

At the A Special Place ceremony, which has taken place in West Virginia for the past nine years, families of donors come together to celebrate the lives the donors lived and the legacy of hope they left, as well as those they saved with the gift of a transplant. We reflect on the past year, share memories, build friendships and cement the importance of organ donation. I want to bring this celebration to life to those reading today by honoring one of these donor heroes and one woman in need of a life-saving gift.

Lieutenant Colonel Chaplain Jack Miller from Winfield, West Virginia, served in the West Virginia Air National Guard with the 130th airlift wing in Charleston. He was married for almost 25 years and had two beautiful children. Last fall, he died unexpectedly at the young age of 46.

Just as he was a giver in life, serving our country, he was also a giver even after his passing, saving the life of a 5-year-old girl as a tissue donor.

Sami Wilson, from Bridgeport, West Virginia, is waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant. In March 2020, the then-19-year-old freshman at Fairmont State went to the emergency room for stomach pains only to discover that she was in end-stage kidney failure. Before becoming ill, Sami spent her free time enjoying sports, especially volleyball. But now, while she’s waiting for a kidney, she undergoes dialysis three times a week and takes nearly 10 medications every day.

Currently, more than 110,000 people are awaiting an organ transplant nationally, with 500 in West Virginia alone. CORE’s mission is to Save and Heal lives through donation, ultimately ending the deaths of those on the transplant waiting list. We need your help to make this a reality. Someday, because of the choice you make now, someone may get a second chance at life. Register to be an organ donor today at

Susan A. Stuart is president and CEO of the Center for Organ Recovery & Education.