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Just like Isabelle – The Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship

One little girl’s connection to organ donation is making a full circle to two others.

Isabelle (Izzie)  Christenson

Izzie in 2005

Izzie in 2005

Isabelle Christenson was a spunky, smart, caring, and thoughtful child. She loved Tinkerbell and the movie “Annie”. She approached each day with a positive attitude and displayed a never-give-up spirit that naturally drew people to her.

During her short life, Isabelle required two transplants. In 2004, when she was only 6-years-old, she received a stomach, liver, small bowel, duodenum and pancreas. In 2006, she had a kidney transplant. Her transplants were her Gift of Life and, even at such a young age, she was a strong advocate for the importance of organ donation because Izzie was always looking out for others. Unfortunately, Izzie passed away at age 10 on August 13, 2008.

To help fulfill Izzie’s hopes and dreams, the Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation was established under the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. Each year the foundation awards scholarships to individuals or family members of someone directly impacted by organ, tissue, or cornea donation including transplant candidates, recipients, living donors, their immediate family, and donor family members.

Meet Emma and Reilly, from the Lifeline of Ohio service area, who have been selected as two of the three Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship winners for 2015.


Emma Emma was 10 and in fourth grade when she suddenly fell ill in March of 2007. She was diagnosed with viral hepatitis and after a short stay at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Emma was given medication and told to have follow-up blood work a few days later.

In the next coming days, tests showed that Emma was in acute liver failure and would not live without a transplant. Two weeks to the day that she fell ill, Emma received a life-saving liver transplant. She stayed in the hospital two weeks and was discharged at the end of April – one month after the nightmare began so unexpectedly.

Just like Isabelle, Emma turned her medical crisis into a mission to help others. Last year she contacted her state representative in the Ohio General Assembly to appeal for more education about donation in public high school classes.  Her representative was so impressed with her story and her passion that House Bill 577 was introduced, mandating that education about the organ donation decision be included in the Ohio High School curriculum. The bill was reintroduced as HB137 and Emma hopes to be a part of committee hearings on the bill later this summer.


ReillyReilly was only six years old when her older sister Lindsay died and gave the Gift of Life through organ and tissue donation. Through the years she has honored her sister’s heroic decision and memory in countless ways; most recently by decorating her floragraph on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float and travelling with her family to Pasadena to take part in the Tournament of Roses activities.

Just like Isabelle, Reilly embodies a joy for life and will represent that spirit as she moves forward in her college and career. Reilly’s future is bright as she heads off to college to pursue a degree in nursing.

We wish both girls much success in their college careers and hope they continue to be ambassadors for donation. Are you an ambassador for donation as a registered donor?

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