Local Philanthropists Create, Launch “Play It Forward Pittsburgh” Campaign and Network to Improve Pediatric Transplantation with Multi-million Dollar Commitment


Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Manganiello & others kick off Play It Forward Pittsburgh organ donation campaign


As a part of their ‘Play It Forward Pittsburgh’ campaign, Steelers part-owners Cindy and Rob Citrone announced $2 million gift to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh plus $1 million matching challenge to launch revolutionary network to improve pediatric transplant outcomes for patients around the world.

Cindy and Rob Citrone, both Pittsburgh area natives and part-owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers, became interested in the topic of organ donation when Rob’s father got sick, needed a new kidney and was put on the waitlist. The family quickly discovered how complicated, stressful and heart-wrenching the waitlist process is for transplant patients and their loved ones and they wanted to do what they could to change it.

The Citrones launched Play It Forward Pittsburgh in partnership with the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, and soon added more than thirty other local and national organizations to their list of campaign supporters and partners, including the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Children’s Hospital Foundation and health giants Highmark and UPMC.

While the campaign’s primary goal is to increase the number of registered organ donors in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County’s organ donor registration rate is about 10% below the national average), the Citrones know that revolutionary, lifesaving breakthroughs in transplantation medicine can only be achieved through additional research. They’ve also committed $2 million to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and agreed to match another $1 million in donations to establish the Starzl Network for Pediatric Transplantation Excellence. Led by the pediatric surgery team at Children’s and named in honor of the late Dr. Thomas Starzl (“father of modern transplantation”), the Network will link pediatric liver transplant centers across the country in order to develop and share best practices, patient outcomes data, and research across the spectrum of transplantation. The Starzl Network will also host a high-profile “hack-a-thon” in 2018 in collaboration with the Pittsburgh region’s abundant tech and entrepreneurial institutions and with a focus on patient-centered technology.

Pittsburgh Notable Faces Featured in Ads
Some of Pittsburgh’s most notable faces – including Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, Kris Letang, Joe Manganiello, Francisco Cervelli, Rocky Bleier and Kent Tekulve – appear alongside patients and the head of pediatric transplantation from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in a recent campaign encouraging residents to register as organ donors.

The ads are the product of Play It Forward Pittsburgh, an organ donation and transplantation awareness initiative that launched in September 2017, and will culminate with fan events and stadium activities this weekend at the Penguins vs. Maples Leafs game (12/9) and the Steelers vs. Ravens game (12/10). The campaign executed similar gameday activations in the fall with partners including the Pirates, Riverhounds, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Robert Morris College to drive organ donor registration and educate fans about the organ transplant waitlist.

More than 117,000 people are currently on the national organ transplant waitlist and 22 Americans die every day waiting for lifesaving organs. To learn more about Play It Forward Pittsburgh, watch the campaign’s latest sizzle video and visit http://www.playitforwardpgh.org to see the full calendar of activation events.

Most Importantly: Sign-Up to Be A Donor Today
Sports fans, Pittsburghers and people who wish to advocate for better pediatric transplantation outcomes are encouraged to sign-up to be a donor today at PlayItForwardPgh.org.

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About the Author: Carrie Brunner

Carrie Brunner grew up in a small town in northern New Brunswick. She studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married her husband one month later. They were then blessed with two baby boys within the first four years of marriage. Having babies gave their family a desire to return to the old paths – to nourish their family with traditional, homegrown foods; rid their home of toxic chemicals and petroleum products; and give their boys a chance to know a simple, sustainable way of life. They are currently building a homestead from scratch on two little acres in central Texas. There’s a lot to be done to become somewhat self-sufficient, but they are debt-free and get to spend their days living this simple, good life together with their five young children. Carrie writes mostly on provincial stories.
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