Rosie Hershberger

Rosie Hershberger is standing with a group of people in front of a pavilion behind her son, Christopher's photo.

Donor mother wants you to know that anyone can register as an organ donor

Disability Pride Month – or Differently-Abled Pride Month, as Rosie calls it – celebrates the differently-abled community, amplifying their achievements and contributions in our society. For Rosie Hershberger, though, she celebrates daily what her son Christopher gave after he passed at the age of just 17 – the gift of life.

As a CORE (Center for Organ Recovery & Education) volunteer, Rosie feels privileged to share Christopher’s story at each engagement she attends. Christopher, who lived with Down Syndrome, lived joyously, always lighting up the room. Depending on the time of year, Christopher was involved with programs ranging from the Super Kids Race to the Fun in the Sun summer camp. Some of his favorite activities were playing video games or dancing and singing to his favorite songs.

In early 2012, Christopher danced along the sidelines with the Greenville cheerleaders while his family looked down, smiling from the bleachers. The cheerleaders loved his enthusiasm and even invited him to learn some of their routines. But the following morning, Christopher came to his mom complaining of a headache. Shortly after, he suffered a seizure and brain hemorrhage, the CAT scan revealing that the bleed had gone into his brain stem.

As Rosie began processing her grief, she contemplated how Christopher might live on – just as she was approached by CORE. “Had I not had that push from Christopher, or God, or somebody, I don’t know how I would have handled it if CORE approached me and said, ‘How about organ donation?’”

Christopher’s organs saved multiple lives. Following his generous donation, his kidneys, pancreas and heart valves were provided to people waiting for their second chance at life. Rosie shares a special connection with each recipient.

Nearly 11 years post-transplant, Rosie sat down with Kurt Miller and Andrea Coyle, who may not be alive today without Christopher’s gift. “I have these two sitting here alive,” said Rosie. “Kurt’s my sassy son, and Andrea has two children now.” Kurt said he has not had to inject insulin since he had his transplant in 2012. Andrea is also doing well and now has a son named in Christopher’s honor.

Through her work as a CORE volunteer over the past decade, Rosie shares Christopher’s story around the state, always wearing a tie-dyed Hershey Kiss shirt–Christopher’s favorite. She tells people that being an organ donor allows a person to live on after death in a way that can be comforting to their families.

“I encourage everyone everywhere to become an organ donor,” Rosie said. “I won’t stop until I’ve reached as many people as I can.” She wants people to know that everyone is able to register to become a donor, no matter our abilities, because we are all different and unique in our own way.