“I’m using my ‘second chance’ to raise awareness about organ donation”

In January 2014, Craig Smith moved to State College to begin his new job at an investment firm. A few weeks later, he started noticing some abnormal medical symptoms, mainly a shortness of breath. He went to Mount Nittany Medical Center where he was diagnosed with Viral Cardiomyopathy. Only a week after his return home, his symptoms worsened and he was rushed to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. He learned his heart was operating at an ejection fraction of 10% (a healthy heart operates at 65%). It was so badly damaged that doctors had to surgically insert a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which helped his left ventricle pump blood to the rest of the body. Despite the assistance the LVAD provided, his heart still had no positive prognosis. Craig’s only remaining option was a heart transplant, and he was placed on the waiting list in May.

It took fourteen months, but the heart that would save his life finally arrived. After his recovery, he and his best friend, Derek Partsch, came up with an idea that would change the course of their lives. They decided to participate in a 5K and donate all of their proceeds to the Center for Organ Recovery and Education ( CORE), an organization dedicated to organ transplantation and based in Pittsburgh—the city that gave Craig his “second chance” at life. This experience inspired Craig and Derek to start their own nonprofit in 2016, which they aptly named Second Chance Fundraising.

The organization’s primary goal is to raise awareness surrounding organ donation. But Second Chance is also dedicated to helping other individuals that are overcoming medical hardships. Every winter, the organization holds a fundraising event to benefit someone in the Johnstown area battling health issues—even if those issues are not organ-transplant related. Most recently, Second Chance’s fundraisers have benefitted a mom fighting breast cancer and a young woman who was unexpectedly diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Any monetary donations Second Chance receives outside of their events go to a scholarship program the organization plans on launching in 2018. Second Chance is only 18 months old, but has already held six events and has raised more than $32,000.

Derek, Craig, and their mascot, Pumper the Heart, are only just beginning to make a difference in the Pittsburgh area. We’ve loved having them at Play it Forward events this season, and we encourage you to learn more about their amazing organization by visiting their website: http://www.secondchancefundraising.org/

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