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LGBTQ+ community encouraged to register to save and heal lives

Posted on: June 8th, 2022

One of the many misconceptions about organ, eye and tissue donation is that members of the LGBTQ+ community are not able to register as organ donors, or receive a transplant.

This is FALSE.

Andrew Banacki, living kidney donor from Ohio, speaks on the misconceptions that come with organ donation and how his family’s life was impacted by organ donation. Banacki is a proud gay man, and he was able to donate his kidney to his father, giving him another chance at life.

“I think in the gay community there’s a huge misconception that – say I’m a gay male – I can’t give blood, so nobody’s going to take my organs,” says Kent Holloway, former CEO of Lifeline of Ohio at the time of Banacki’s interview. “So why am I going to register? I can’t do anything. And it couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Living kidney donor Andrew Banacki (r) with his father (l) Photo credit: 10 WBNS

While it’s true that people in the LGBTQ+ community have experienced being denied from some avenues of donation based on current exclusion criteria, organ donation is regulated differently than other types of donation.

Who Can Register?

A person’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression have no determination over whether they can register as an organ donor, or receive an organ transplant. A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, donor distance, tissue type and time on the list. Sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, race, income, celebrity and social status are never considered. Plus, HIV, which has historically impacted the LGBTQ+ community, as well as hepatitis C infections, no longer prevent the possibility of lifesaving organ donation.

There are truly no limitations on who can register as a lifesaving organ, eye and tissue donor on As we celebrate Pride Month, we encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community to register to become organ, eye and tissue donors. There are over 106,000 people in need for transplants, and by registering, you can help save and heal lives.

A Second Chance At Life

Kidney recipient Michael Learned

After communicating through letters and social media for a couple years, kidney recipient Michael Learned and his husband, Matthew, finally met the family of Michael’s donor. Michael grew up with Type 1 diabetes and knew he would need a transplant in the future to save his life. Thanks to organ donor Jordyn Avelar, Michael received a second chance at life. The selfless decision to register as a donor results in countless second chances and changed lives every single day.

Donate Life Arizona encourages everyone to sign up to be an organ donor, regardless of sexuality or gender identity or expression. Help us offer hope to the 106,000 people on the national organ waiting list, and let’s bring an end to these misconceptions.

Arizonans can join the DonateLifeAZ Registry when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or state ID at an ADOT MVD office. They can also register online at

Donate Life Month 2022 was Un-BEE-lievable!

Posted on: May 17th, 2022

This April, Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) celebrated Donate Life Month in honor of those who have given the gift of donation, and those whose lives have been forever changed by receiving the gift of life. Thanks to the hard work of our partner organizations, 450 new people joined in the DonateLifeAZ Registry in April, and nearly 500 people reaffirmed their decision!

What's the Buzz?

On April 8, two passionate champions of donation – living donor Bonnie Palomo and RN Robin Royer joined us for our What’s the Buzz? livestream. In a close competition, they answered trivia questions about donation and audience members chimed in with their guesses. Ultimately, Bonnie was crowned our “queen bee” as she showed her passion about how donation changes lives by getting the most questions correct!

Nico Santos (top left), media relations specialist at DNA; Bonnie Palomo (bottom left), living donor; Patricia Pace Anderson (top right), manager of Donor Program Development at DNA; and Robin Royer (bottom right), RN; join us on Facebook live to play What’s The Buzz?

Bonnie has good reason to know firsthand the lifechanging impact of donation. She realized just how powerful the gift of donation is when her father-in-law received a kidney in 2007.  After witnessing how her father-in-law’s life changed after his transplant, it was no question that Bonnie would be tested when co-worker and friend Randi Ruiz learned that she was in renal failure. Bonnie immediately called the transplant center and learned the two friends were a match. Since then, Bonnie and Randi have remained extremely close and consider each other to be like family. Bonnie is a regional manager at the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (ADOT MVD), which promotes organ donation every day.

“MVD touches so many lives every single day,” Bonnie says. “I am proud to be a part of an organization that supports and promotes organ donation and helps educate customers on the benefits and rewards of saving lives by being a registered organ donor.”

Living donor Bonnie Palomo (left) and kidney recipient Randi Ruiz (right)

Thanking our community for making a difference!

We also want to thank and give a shout out to our amazing hospital and community partners who joined us in raising the Donate Life flag on April 18. Not only does this symbolize the support of our amazing partners, but also honors those who have shared their stories on how donation has touched them and their loved ones. If you’d like to purchase your own flag, visit Donate Life America’s online store. Watch how we honored donation heroes at DNA here.

Friendly Competition in the Spirit of Donation

National Blue and Green Day was on April 22, and we loved seeing people all over America show their spirit by decorating their homes and offices, baking yummy treats that highlighted their donation spirit, and posting on social media about how excited they were to celebrate Blue and Green Day! Here at DNA, our Community Involvement Committee split our staff into a blue team and a green team for a water drive competition. The blue team took home the victory of donating the most water bottles and monetary donations to benefit Phoenix Rescue Mission and Gospel Rescue Mission in Tucson. We collected over 3,500 water bottles in total this year, which will undoubtedly make a difference to those in need. Go blue team!

Mayo Clinic joined DNA in celebration of Blue and Green Day by lighting their building green in honor of donors

Honoring Donor Heroes

Lastly, we ended Donate Life Month with Donor Remembrance Day on April 30. It would be impossible to celebrate Donate Life Month without recognizing those who selflessly shared the gift of life. Every day, those anxiously awaiting the call that would change their lives forever receive that second chance thanks to donors and their families. We invited family and friends to create a page in honor of their loved one and share their story of how donation has touched their hearts. To view these pages, please visit

We are honored to be able to celebrate donation not only this past month, but every month here at DNA, and thank those who make donation possible!

Celebrating Donate Life Day at the Capitol

Posted on: April 12th, 2022

In 2014, Marissa “Roo” Pummill’s life and memory was kept alive when her mother, Kellye Pummill, decided to donate her daughter’s organs. Roo was an animal lover, a compassionate person, and her sense of empathy lives on through her gift of donation. Thanks to Roo, six transplant recipients received the phone call they had been desperately waiting for. Kellye and her dog Ozzy joined Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) at Donate Life Day at the Capitol on March 24, as a way to honor her daughter and keep her memory alive.

DNA holds this annual Donate Life Day at the Capitol event to allow people who have been directly impacted by donation to speak to their state senators and representatives about this vital lifesaving gift that provides a silver lining in a moment of tragedy. Donor family members, living donors and transplant recipients joined us for a luncheon after meeting with their legislators and bonded through their personal experiences with donation. Donation truly changes countless lives, and we’re so grateful for opportunities to help this community connect and make a difference.

Donor mom Kellye Pummill stands with the poster honoring her daughter, Marissa "Roo".
Volunteer and recipient Betty Day (left) and DNA staff member Kathy Mills (right) meet with Arizona Representative Michelle Udall (center).

Mark Larson is one of the people whose life was changed, and he is more than willing to share his story with those who listen. Mark has been to four Donate Life Days at the Capitol, and says that it is important for organ recipients like him to share how their lives changed after receiving the gift of life, and to thank legislators for their support of donation.

“All the legislators have been receptive, and there seems to be a positive ambiance [at the meetings],” says Mark. “This shows the importance of educating the legislators about the value of donation.” 


DNA created a garden of life on the Senate lawn, showcasing the stories of donors, recipients and others affected by donation. These beautiful posters served as a visual reminder of the importance of donation for all who attended Donate Life Day at the Capitol.

Want to get involved in your community? Sign up to volunteer!

One person has the ability to change over 75 lives by registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor this April. Register today to give the gift of life!

Celebrating National Funeral Professionals Appreciation Day

Posted on: March 7th, 2022

March 11 is National Funeral Professionals Appreciation Day. Sometimes called the “last responders,” funeral home professionals are there at the end of someone’s life to guide each family.

Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) partners with funeral homes across the state to ensure that we honor everyone’s end-of-life decisions, including organ, eye and tissue donation.

We’re so grateful for our funeral home partners that support donation. They put families first, honoring their values and beliefs of helping others in need. We thank them for all they do to help make donation happen for so many.

Can organ, eye and tissue donors still have an open-casket funeral?

Yes! Donor Network of Arizona works closely with funeral homes to ensure that organ, eye and tissue donation does not alter funeral arrangements, including the option of an open casket service. 

Throughout the entire donation process, the donor and donor family are treated with dignity and respect. This includes holding a moment of silence, and sometimes reading words prepared by the family, before recovery starts in an operating room. After recovery, the team performs a restorative process.

How can funeral homes partner with Donor Network of ARizona?

Thank you to all of the funeral professionals who care for donor families, and honor donors and their legacy of generosity. Thank you for being champions of the Donate Life mission and supporting organ, eye and tissue donation.

Are you a funeral home professional who wants to show your support for the lifesaving and healing gifts of organ, eye and tissue donation? Are you looking for education and resources about the donation process? Reach out to us!

Contact Us
Office: 602-200-7514
Cell: 602-695-7788
Fax: 602-200-7537

To make a referral for organ, tissue or eye donation, please call 1-800-447-9477.

What does a kidney do anyway? Learn about this vital organ for National Kidney Month!

Posted on: March 3rd, 2022

For National Kidney Month 2022, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) asks you to take five steps to support your kidney health.

The kidney is a vital organ. It’s shaped just like a kidney bean, hence the shared name. Its function is to filter and remove waste and extra fluid from the body, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Disease. In fact, it’s happening in your body right now. Healthy kidneys can filter about half a cup (roughly 120 mL) of blood every minute, and send any unnecessary stuff out of the body through urine.

The kidneys also create more red blood cells, help to control blood pressure, and strengthen our bones. It really illustrates just how intertwined the functions of different organs can be. So, what happens when someone has kidney disease or kidney failure?

What happens with kidney disease or kidney failure?

If less than 15% of your kidney functions properly, that’s considered kidney failure. At this point, the patient would need some type of dialysis treatment to filter waste in the blood, and to talk to a medical professional about the possibility of a kidney transplant.

In fact, of the more than 106,000 people on the national organ waiting list, about 85% of them need a donated kidney to extend their life. There are even more who need both a kidney and pancreas transplant, often related to severe diabetic complications.

You can offer them hope by registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor now on If you’re interested in being a living kidney donor, you can contact one of Arizona’s organ transplant centers directly.

How to support your kidney health

So, what does the National Kidney Foundation suggest to support your kidney health? Here are the five steps they’re asking you to take this month.

  1. Screen for organ function: A simple urine or blood test can reveal how well your kidneys are working. It’s often done when you do any lab work, such as a biometric screen, through your primary care physician.
  2. Cut back on pain medications: NSAIDs, otherwise known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are great for common pains, such as a headache. They’re not so great for your kidneys.
  3. Keep processed foods away: Often, processed foods, such as breakfast cereal, hotdogs and lunch meats, and frozen meals, have high levels of sodium, phosphates or nitrates. These are linked to cancer, and they put a strain on your kidneys to get rid of those elements. NKF recommends learning about the DASH diet.
  4. Manage blood pressure and diabetes: These two issues are the leading cause of kidney failure. Keeping blood pressure and sugar levels in a healthy range can slow the progression of kidney disease.
  5. No surprise here! Stay active: Kidneys respond to exercise. At least 30 minutes of physical activity each day supports your entire physical and mental health. Exercise specifically helps with No. 4 too.

For more information, we invite you to visit NKF’s website for other resources about National Kidney Month and your kidney health in general

Happy National Donor Day!

Posted on: February 10th, 2022

Feb. 14 is most well known as Valentine’s Day, but here at Donor Network of Arizona, we like to celebrate National Donor Day and Valventine’s Day!

We recognize the wonderful gift of heart and heart valve donation. In 2021, 396 heart valves were donated, and more than 60 heart transplants were completed in Arizona alone.

Additionally, according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there were a record-breaking 40,000 transplants in a single year. That is an amazing record to achieve, and it’s all thanks to the generosity of donors and their families, the hard work of health care staff, and countless other people involved in the donation and transplantation journey.

Just one National Donor Day certainly does not seem enough, but we want to extend our gratitude and celebrate all of the amazing donors who have changed countless lives and futures. Organ, eye and tissue donors share the gift of life with others, which is possibly the most priceless and selfless gift there is. For many of these recipients, and their families, donation is the only thing that gives them hope to have the future they deserve and so desperately wish for. When you choose to register as a donor, you are allowing someone to dream of a life that goes beyond hospital or dialysis walls, and live a life that comes with freedom and opportunity.

Love comes from the (donated) heart

One of these grateful recipients is Malaya Soares. Her family learned early on in her young life just how important this gift would be. Malaya was born with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that prevents her from having proper blood flow. This prevented Malaya from experiencing things that any other child might be able to do.

Malaya carries the same mutated gene as her mother, Mia Welch, who is a heart recipient herself. While sharing this disease strengthened the bond between the mother and daughter duo, it also meant that Mia knew just how vital it would be for Malaya to get a new heart as quickly as possible.

Luckily, after 14 long days of waiting, Mia got the call that they had a heart ready for Malaya. Now, Malaya has a new heart and is a healthy, happy and smart little girl.

Malaya’s future would be uncertain if it was not for her amazing donor and their choice to give her the gift of a bright future.

Sign up. Save lives. Register as an organ, eye and tissue donor at

Thank you, Arizona: Organ donors set new record

Posted on: January 31st, 2022

Organ donors allowed for more than 40,000 organ transplants to happen last year, a notable accomplishment for the U.S. organ transplant system. It was more transplants than any previous year. That’s according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the nonprofit that serves as the U.S. organ transplant system.

“It is also a testament to the generosity of so many inspiring donors and their courageous families who gave the gift of life,” says Dr. Matthew Cooper, president of the UNOS board of directors.

In Arizona, 315 organ donors—more than any previous year—saved the lives of 790 people last year. That’s a 14% increase in organ donors since 2018. Also in 2021, 1,651 tissue donors offered healing to potentially more than 123,000 people, and 901 ocular donors offered restored vision for up to two people each. All the above is only possible through the selfless act of donation by donors and their families. We are also so grateful for the almost 232,000 Arizonans who added themselves to the DonateLifeAZ Registry in 2021.

Donor Network of Arizona’s (DNA) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as Multicultural, committees celebrated diverse outcomes through the gift of life. In 2021, there were 25 Black or African American organ donors and 357 Latino or Hispanic organ recipients—both the most Arizona has ever seen in a single year.

See the following chart for more 2021 data:  

It's not just numbers, it's personal

Marie Bernard Johnson (pictured here) is left with only the echoes of her husband’s laughter that would fill any room with joy after he passed away.

“Stephen was love unleashed,” says Marie. “He was an amazing human being with immense love for humanity, nature and animals.”

From the first night they met and danced the night away together, Marie knew Stephen was the type of person who made you want to be better.

When Stephen passed in 2020, Marie knew he had the opportunity to make that impact he always wanted on the world. Through organ donation, Stephen gave the gift of time to three people, and helped improve the lives of many through research donation.

“As a human being, one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is life,” says Marie. “I know that there are people out there who hesitate to be an organ donor. It’s OK if you have misconceptions or are scared, but find that education and choose to give the gift of time.”

Share this blog with your family and friends, and ask them to register online at

Delivering Hope: the gift of placenta donation

Posted on: January 18th, 2022

Lindsay Gibson was a young girl when she was introduced to just how valuable donation can be. Her father was not only a liver transplant recipient, but also received a lifesaving kidney. Lindsay saw firsthand how life-changing organ donation can be, as her father’s health changed drastically for the better.

“His momentum, his energy was back after having that transplant,” says Lindsay as she reflects on how quickly her father’s health was restored.

Lindsay's Gift of Healing

Flash forward to 2020, when Lindsay was pregnant with her second child and learned about Donor Network of Arizona’s (DNA) placenta donation program.

Given her history with the incredible power of donation, she immediately said “Yes!” and when little Finley Gibson was born, she donated her placenta after her scheduled C-section.

“Having a baby, it was a gift to myself but being able to give a gift for other people made it more exciting and beneficial,” Lindsay says when telling DNA about her choice to donate her placenta. “I will definitely tell [my son], that when he was born we donated his placenta, and what gave him life is giving somebody else an opportunity to heal.”

A record-breaking year

On Oct. 19, DNA completed the 200th placenta acquisition in 2021. By the end of 2021, 249 women decided to gift their placenta or birth tissue to those who will benefit from their life-changing gift. Placental tissue is used to aid in the healing of difficult injuries, treat burns, and reduce scarring to injuries.

DNA expresses its immense gratitude to the mothers who said “Yes” to donation, as well as the nine hospitals across Arizona that make donation possible. This milestone was made possible by the teamwork these hospitals show with DNA, and the commitment they have to change lives, one donation at a time.

Want to give the gift of healing?

The gift of tissue donation: How tissue donors give hope, healing & restored life

Posted on: September 30th, 2021

Did you know that tissue donation impacts the lives of more than one million people in the United States each year through transplantation? Let’s take a few minutes to talk about this incredible gift of healing!

One tissue donor can help support the healing of more than 75 people by restoring mobility, supporting burn victims, replacing damaged heart valves, and aiding in reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. Bone, cardiovascular, connective and skin tissues improve lives in many ways, offering hope and healing through transplantation.

Her heart beats strong, thanks to a new heart valve...

At just 9 years old, Heather Jauregui underwent her second open-heart surgery, where she received a new heart valve. This donated tissue allowed her to get back to her active life.

“I’m very thankful to the donor who gave me my heart valve and to their family who must have been so sad but still so giving,” says Heather.

Heart valve transplants go to pediatric patients more than 76% of the time. In 2020, Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) recorded the highest number of heart valve donors for a single organization in U.S. history.

Baby Weston has been a lifesaver since birth...

Following the miracle of life, mothers with a scheduled cesarean section can give the gift of healing by donating their placenta, which is often discarded otherwise.

When Kayla Click’s doctor presented her with the option of placenta donation, she knew immediately that she wanted to donate.

“As a social worker, I always look for my ‘why.’ Always trying to find a way to do more and be more for others and for my family,” says Kayla. “DNA was very pleasant to work with and was so kind during an exciting time.”

Since starting this program in 2018, DNA has had more than 270 moms choose to give this healing gift! Learn more at

She healed so many through tissue donation...

Regarded by her children as their biggest fan and the center of their family, Peggy Caniglia is truly missed. When she passed away in 2016, her family knew immediately that she would want to help heal others through donation.

“My mother’s gifts did not take away the pain of her passing, but it has given us an outlet to continue her story,” says one of her daughters, Katie Benton. “To keep talking about her. My children know that their Nana was a hero. I am proud to share that my mother’s gifts have helped heal more than 110 people. Tissue donation is truly a priceless gift.”

Though Peggy’s family may never know the specific people across 17 different states who received her gifts, Katie likes to think that there is a grandmother out there who is able to run and play with her grandchildren, thanks to her mother’s gift.

If you would like to register as an organ and tissue donor, visit

Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day

What is National Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day? It’s a national initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access to information regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.⁠

There are now many options available for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, including reconstruction with implants using donated skin or tissues from a person’s own body. One tissue donor can help up to 10 people undergoing reconstructive surgery!

Partnerships to Restore Hope

Making tissue donation and transplantation widely available in Arizona is possible thanks to dedicated partnerships with funeral homes, medical examiner’s offices and tissue processors across the state.

We can’t thank these partners enough for all they do to help honor the decisions of Arizona donors to heal others through tissue donation!

What exactly happens after you check the box at ADOT MVD? And how checking that box may one day save and heal lives.

Posted on: August 16th, 2021

If you’ve been to an Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division (ADOT MVD) office anytime over the last several years, chances are you have seen this line with that checkbox next to it:

Be one in 4 million!

More than 4 million people have joined the DonateLifeAZ Registry as an organ, eye and tissue donor this way. After you checked that box, the rest of the work is behind the scenes, which leaves many to wonder, “What exactly happens to my information after that?”

This August, for ADOT MVD Saves Lives Month 2021, let’s remove the mystery.

This is the ADOT MVD donor registration process after an Arizonan checks that box:

  1. An ADOT MVD employee enters that person’s information and their donation registration decision into the ADOT MVD computer system.
  2. A temporary, paper credential is issued, and if the person chose to be a registered donor, the credential features the DONOR ♥.
  3. The insignia is also printed on the permanent credential sent to the client in the mail several weeks later.
  4. An ADOT MVD computer system electronically sends the information of those who registered directly to the DonateLifeAZ Registry automatically daily.
  5. ADOT MVD only submits this information. ADOT MVD employees do not have access to view or edit any information on the DonateLifeAZ Registry.
  6. New registrants receive a letter from Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) detailing their decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.
  7. If a person changes their decision or doesn’t wish to be a donor, they can call DNA to be removed from the registry or remove themselves from the registry online.

DNA later checks registry status of a person after they have passed away to then determine if this person could save up to eight lives and heal 75 more as an organ, eye and tissue donor. This is made possible because all hospitals in Arizona have to report to Donor Network of Arizona any time someone passes away.

A growing partnership:

ADOT MVD also contracts with independent MVD service locations known as authorized third party (ATP) offices. The ATPs that offer state IDs or driver’s licenses also give customers a chance to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. They upload their information to the DonateLifeAZ Registry through ADOT MVD and have no access to view or edit such information.

Only a select team of employees at DNA have access to the DonateLifeAZ Registry. No person or entity outside of DNA has access to see or modify the information in the registry. It is strictly confidential.

Don’t want to wait in lines?

Arizonans can join the DonateLifeAZ Registry when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or state ID at an ADOT MVD office. They can also register online at

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