Diana and Mike Natale

From pickleball to kidney donations, Natale family goes all out for transplant community

If ever a family has paid it forward it’s the Natales. Not only are they part of the longest chain donation for kidneys, they also captained Team Alleghenies Transplant at the 2022 Transplant Games of America.

Mike Natale was given the gift of life as a kidney transplant recipient in 2006 after his sister, Julie “JuJu” DeLillo, tested as a perfect match. 

His wife, Diana, vowed to one day become a living donor as well after witnessing the repeated stress and struggles of dialysis patients like her husband. Over time, she focused on her health, completed physical and psychological testing and in March 2017 became a living donor.

“It is just such a powerful emotion to know you played a part in saving someone’s life,” she said. “I only wish I had 10 more kidneys to donate.”

The next month, her recipient’s sister donated her kidney, lengthening the transplant chain with which Diana is involved to 11 links.

To further deepen their commitment, the Natales have been involved with the Transplant Games of America for 16 years, having attended in seven different locations. 

The multi-sport festival features competition in everything from swimming and golf to ballroom dancing and bingo for individuals who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. It highlights the critical importance of organ, tissue and cornea donation, while celebrating the lives of organ donors and recipients.

Mike and Diana were captains for Team Alleghenies Transplant at the 2022 games in San Diego, California, where they competed in pickleball mixed doubles, trivia, Texas hold ’em and a 5K, where they placed fourth. 

“The games help donor families heal as it is a connection for them, that is why I do it – for them,” said Diana Natale.

The Natales are shining examples of both the generosity and gratefulness inherent in the donor community. It takes just a minute to register to be a donor and offer hope. Sign up for Team Alleghenies Transplant and register to be an organ donor here.