Steelers part-owners Cindy and Rob Citrone are leading the charge to increase organ donor registration, fund lifesaving research and change policy surrounding organ donation and transplantation nationally, starting in Pittsburgh

September 15, 2017, Pittsburgh, PA – The Citrone Family Foundation announced today the launch of Play It Forward Pittsburgh, a season-long campaign to establish Pittsburgh as the national leader in organ donation, and transform the way Pittsburgh residents feel about organ donation and transplantation. This is the first time the city’s three major sports franchises – Steelers, Penguins and Pirates – are joining forces with Pittsburgh’s biggest names in business, medicine and education to encourage citizens to register as organ donors, and celebrate Pittsburgh’s history as a leader in organ transplantation. The Play It Forward Pittsburgh campaign will leverage innovative digital registration technologies, the massive social media reach of campaign partners, and a series of high-profile, large-scale events to get every eligible resident registered and educate the whole city on the issue.

“I am ‘Pittsburgh proud’ to work in my hometown and build upon the transformative work that Pittsburgh has always done in organ transplantation,” said philanthropist Cindy Citrone. “Being champions in medicine and sports is an integral part of our identity, and we want to leverage that in order to educate citizens and ultimately register more organ donors. The majority of Americans support organ donation, yet remain unregistered because they don’t know how easy the process can be and are not aware of how many people are waiting for life-saving organs.”
More than 117,000 people are currently on the national organ transplant waitlist, including more than 7,700 in Pennsylvania. However, Pittsburgh is uniquely positioned to lead the way in organ donation. It is home to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, which ranks highest in the nation for pediatric liver and heart transplant outcomes; UPMC, which completed the world’s first intestine, lung and pancreas transplants; and AHN Transplant Institute, which is ranked among the top 10 heart transplant centers nationally. Pittsburgh is also home to the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, which has led organ transplantation research for decades and is named after Dr. Thomas Starzl, the father of modern transplantation.

The campaign originated in December 2016, when the Pittsburgh Steelers, through the Steelers Charities, confirmed their participation in a White House initiative to reduce the organ waiting list and help more people access organ transplants. Through their work with the Steelers, the Citrone Family Foundation developed the concept of an organ donation and transplantation awareness campaign – reaching the most people and making the biggest impact over the course of one season. In true team sports fashion, Pittsburgh’s other two major franchises – the Pirates and the Penguins – quickly embraced the cause and agreed to join the campaign. After the city’s colleges confirmed their
participation – including University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University – it rapidly became a city-wide effort that Pittsburgh’s major hospital groups, brands and media outlets eagerly supported.

Cindy and Rob Citrone, both Pittsburgh area natives, became interested in the topic of organ donation when Rob’s father got sick, needed a new kidney and was put on the waitlist.

“It doesn’t matter who you are – the organ transplant waitlist process is complicated, stressful and heart-wrenching for all transplant patients and their families,” said Rob Citrone. “Yet, unless you or a loved one has experienced this process, we found that most people were largely unfamiliar with it. We wanted to change that. Pittsburgh is world-renowned for its transplant centers. We are a city of championship sports teams and ‘championship’ transplant teams. We want to make Pittsburgh a city of organ donor champions as well.”

“Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC established the nation’s first pediatric transplant center, and our outcomes rank at the top nationally. We continue to innovate and look for innovative partners to help us make transplant a lifesaving treatment for kids and to help them achieve a high quality of life,” said George Mazariegos, M.D., chief, pediatric transplantation at Children’s. “With the help and support of the Citrone family and our Pittsburgh sports franchises, we see this campaign as a way to extend the voice to the Pittsburgh community to make them aware of the wait list and to give hope to sick children.”

Upcoming campaign activation events include:
9/16 – University of Pittsburgh vs. Oklahoma State football game at Heinz Field
9/22 – Pirates vs. Cardinals MLB game at PNC Park
10/14 – Riverhounds vs. Fury USL game at Highmark Stadium
11/30 – Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC event at Carnegie Hall
12/9 – Penguins vs. Maple Leafs NHL game
12/10 – Steelers vs. Ravens NFL game

Campaign partners include Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, UPMC, UPMC Health Plan, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Highmark, Allegheny Health Network, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), and Donate Life America, among others.

About Play It Forward Pittsburgh
Play It Forward Pittsburgh is a citywide collaboration to register organ, eye and tissue donors on the National Donate Life Registry, raise awareness about organ donation and transplantation, raise funds to improve pediatric transplant outcomes, and encourage relevant policy updates. Individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations and other groups can join Play It Forward Pittsburgh. To learn more about the movement and how you can get involved, please visit www.playitforwardpgh.org or contact kelly@globalphilanthropy.com and shawn.magill@charitynetwork.com.

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