Celebrate National Donate Life Month with Unyts this April!

March 24th, 2015


Established in 2003 and recognized throughout the United States, National Donate Life Month works to raise awareness of organ, eye, tissue and blood donation while celebrating the generosity of those who have given the Gift of Life to others.

Here are a few important facts to consider:

Nearly 124,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for an organ transplant.
More than 1,000 of them are 10 years old or younger.

On average, 150 people are added to the nation’s organ transplant waiting list each day—one every 10 minutes.

Nearly 58% of patients awaiting lifesaving transplants are minorities.

Sadly, on average, 21 people die each day because the organs they need are not donated in time.

Each year, there are approximately 30,000 tissue donors and more than 1 million tissue transplants performed; but the surgical need for tissue continues to rise.

One in seven people entering a hospital need blood.

37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood. Only 10% do annually.

If you are interesting in helping to save and enhance lives through organ, eye, tissue and blood donation, please visit www.unyts.org or look for Unyts at one of these events in April-

Donate Life Month campaign every Friday in April in the lobby of ECMC

Buffalo General Medical Center Blood and Registry Drive, April 7th

Blue & Green Day, April 17th

Donate Life Memorial Garden Planting at Delaware Park, April 18th

Unyts Bucket List Bash, April 24th

Buffalo Bandits Blood Drive, April 25th

Picture Yourself on the BNMC event, April 25th

Dear Donor Family…

March 11th, 2015

A sincere letter to a Donor Family from the family of a cornea recipient – an 8 week old baby. 


“I donate in honor of my mom, grandma, and aunt. I donate because I can.”

March 5th, 2015


Whether you once needed someone’s blood or you’re just a giving person, we want our blood donors to know how much they’re appreciated. That’s what “Share Your Story” is all about, and we’re highlighting a different donor, recipient or supporter each month.


Kelly Hooven


Curiosity is what began my involvement with donating blood to Unyts. I first found out about Unyts during my senior year of high school through the Donate Life program. However, donating blood was the furthest thing from my mind as I have always had a huge fear of needles. Instead, I signed up to be an organ donor when I turned 18. A couple of years later I saw a flyer for an upcoming drive at my work. It was my curiosity to find out my blood type that finally made me take the plunge and donate blood.

That first time, I found out my hemoglobin levels were too low to donate. That didn’t deter me because I was on a mission to donate. The Unyts staff was so friendly and relaxing that I decided to go to their next mobile location to donate. They calmed my fear of needles and made it as painless as possible. When it was over, I left happy, knowing that the blood I just donated could help save the lives of up to 3 people in WNY. Now I donate whenever I am able, even though my fear of needles remains. I enjoy traveling to Unyts different mobile sites to donate whether it is by work, school, my house or just somewhere because I feel like it. No matter where I go, the people are friendly, calming, and can even hold a good conversation too.kelly2

Though the curiosity has disappeared, I still donate. I donate because there are people in need and I know I can help make a difference. I donate in honor of my mom, grandma, and aunt: all of whom have had cancer. I donate because I enjoy interacting with people who are passionate about saving lives. I hope that I will never need a blood transfusion, but I know that life is unpredictable, so I donate in the hopes that I can encourage others to do the same. I donate because I can.


For more information about becoming a blood donor and a list of our Neighborhood Blood Donation Centers, please visit this page.

If you have been touched by the Gift of Life through blood donation, or donate for a reason you feel passionate about, we’d love for you to:ShareYourStory_Button

Honoring Our Heroes: Frederick Garrasi III

March 1st, 2015


Frederick Garrasi III became an eye donor upon his passing on May 3, 2013.

This remembrance was shared by his parents, Fred and Renee.

Freddy was a proud big brother, the oldest of three children. While of course he and his sisters had the typical sibling fights and rivalries, they were incredibly close and the best of friends. Freddy would do anything for his family and friends.

He grew up in a family that taught him the importance of kindness and compassion. Freddy carried those traits of kindness and compassion into his work at Claddagh Commission, Inc, working in group homes for the developmentally disabled. The individuals that Freddy worked with grew to love him as family, as no matter what their ability level, they were able to sense his love and compassionate understanding for all people.

Garrasi combo

While working for Claddagh Commission, Freddy pursued his dream of becoming a police officer. At only 23 years old, Freddy became a full-time police officer for the Evans Police Department, realizing a long time dream. In his short career as a police officer, Freddy was recognized as a strength to the department, and commended for his compassionate completion of his police duties.

Garrasi-soccerOutside of work, Freddy’s passions involved athletic thrill seeking. He loved soccer and physical fitness. He took sixth place in the men’s decathlon his first year of college, having never competed in many of the events before. He also loved his motorcycle. Freddy also obtained the honor of being an Eagle Scout.

Freddy was a fun loving guy, and could easily be described as the life of every party. He was a loyal friend, and was always there for his family and friends whenever he said he would be. He was someone people could turn to at any time, and was really there for those that needed him. After he passed away, many people described Freddy as their “best friend” and that is because he truly treated everyone with the love and respect of a best friend. He really made everyone feel as though they were important to him.

Freddy could also be described as a goofball, always ready to lighten the mood with a joke or some silly antics. Of course he was serious when he needed to be, but he never failed to bring a smile to someone’s face when he could.

His kindness and his giving nature were not limited to his friends and family. As a teenager, Freddy sponsored children from Compassion International, for schooling, food and medical expenses.

The Frederick Garrasi III Memorial Fund has been established to provide two scholarships in Freddy’s honor to graduates of Lake Shore High School, which Freddy attended. One scholarship is awarded to a student pursuing Freddy’s passion of law enforcement. The other, the Compassionate Mentor award, is given to a student who exhibits Freddy’s traits of kindness and compassion for others, and makes an impact in the local community with those traits.

In honor of Freddy, Nick Charlap’s ice cream stand of Angola has named his favorite sundae after him, called the “Freddy Rocks.” With each purchase of a “Freddy Rocks” sundae, a portion of the profit goes toward the scholarship fund in memory of him.

Not only did Fred love soccer, swimming and diving, he loved track and field. Therefore, we hold an annual 5K run in his memory. All proceeds made at this event also go into the Scholarship Fund at Lake Shore High School. In the town of Evans on Route 5, we’ve adopted a highway in his name.


Each month, Unyts pays tribute to organ, eye and tissue donors. It seemed fitting to call this feature “Honoring our Heroes” as these donors are heroes to their families and to the people who have received transplants.


If you would like to nominate a loved one who gave the gift of life, please click the button above. Unyts will contact you when your loved one is chosen for the Hero of the Month.



National Eye Donor Month

February 24th, 2015

2015 NEDM Banner

Every March, we at Unyts celebrate National Eye Donor Month. During this month, we honor donors and celebrate the gift of sight they give to others. The cornea, the dome-shaped outer layer of the eye, is the most commonly transplanted eye tissue.

Since 1961, more than 1,390,143 men, women, and children ranging in age from nine days to 100+ years, have had their sight restored through corneal transplant. In 2013 alone, there were 48,229 corneal transplants performed in the U.S. Amazingly, over 95 percent of all corneal transplant operations successfully restore the corneal recipient’s vision.


When Chris Spadafora was a teenager, he was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye disorder that causes the cornea to thin and become cone-shaped. Keratoconus causes vision distortion and sensitivity to light. Chris has worn hard contact lenses since his diagnosis, but even then he has never had 20/20 vision.

Over the past few years, Chris noticed that his symptoms were getting worse. His eyes were so sensitive to light that he had trouble driving at night due to the glare from other drivers’ headlights. It was getting harder to see far away, too. Chris called one of his golfing buddies his “seeing-eye dog” because without his help, he couldn’t see where his ball landed.

When Chris started seeing a new optometrist, he found out that he was a good candidate for a cornea transplant. He didn’t exactly jump at the chance, though. Chris had never had surgery before, and it took some thought to decide that the procedure was worth it to improvehis vision.

Unfortunately, the cornea transplant didn’t work. Despite this huge disappointment, Chris was undeterred. Six months later, he underwent a second cornea transplant and this time it was a success. The second transplant may have been more effective because Chris’ second donor was close to his age. Chris plans to undergo a third transplant in the next few years to improve the vision in his other eye.

If Chris had the chance to talk to the people who donated their corneas to him, he would say, “Thank you so much. The concept of seeing clearly has been totally foreign to me, and it’s miraculous that I might have 20/20 vision in a few years because people like you chose to be donors.”


Anyone can be an eye donor. The great thing about corneal tissue is that everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match and it doesn’t matter how old you are, what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, most people are suitable donors.

Would you like to become an organ and tissue donor? It’s easy! Visit this page to find out how.



Unyts Scores Big With the Buffalo Sabres

February 23rd, 2015

Thank you blood donors!

What a successful campaign! The Buffalo Sabres teamed up with Unyts last week for their annual Sabres blood drive, and every donor who made an appointment and kept it received a pair of tickets to an upcoming game. The campaign kicked off on President’s Day at the First Niagara Center where donors stopped by to give blood and enjoy some special activities. Buffalo Sabres fans love their alumni, and Danny Gare, Darryl Shannon and Craig Muni, to name just a few, were on hand to sign autographs and pose for pictures. New Era donated exclusive caps for the event, and fans got to enjoy an open practice with the Sabres. The Kid’s Zone kept the little ones busy and Sabretooth even stopped by to play video games and bubble hockey.

The campaign continued throughout the week at our Neighborhood Blood Donation Centers, and in total we had 549 presenting donors. Thanks to everyone who came out to donate and helped to save lives right here in Western New York!


See more photos from the drive on Facebook.


Ali’s Rally 2015

February 20th, 2015


Thank you to everyone who came out to support the 9th Annual Ali’s Rally Bowling Tournament!

The event, in memory of Alison Gerlach promotes awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation and raises money for Unyts and the Ali’s Rally Foundation.
We had great participation from Unyts Staff, Donate Life Club Schools and the WNY community. It was a huge success!

National Donor Day

February 11th, 2015

On Valentine’s Day, we’re all thinking about how we can show our loved ones that we care. February 14th is also National Donor Day, so why not share the love by giving the gift of life?

On National Donor Day, we focus on all five points of life: organs, tissue, marrow, platelets, and blood. Take a look at these donation facts:

  • Over 120,000 people are on the national organ transplant waiting list.
  • Someone in the U.S. needs blood about every two seconds; that’s 44,000 donations needed every day!
  • Platelets are often in very short supply due to their high demand and short shelf life.
  • 70% of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.
  • A bone marrow transplant can save the lives of people battling leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers.
  • One tissue donor can save and/or enhance the lives of up to 50 people.
  • Each day, 18 people die while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.

Here’s how you can share the love and give the gift of life today:

  • Donate with your date at one of our community blood donation centers.
  • Take time to talk to your loved ones about becoming a donor.
  • Register as an organ and tissue donor.

National Donor Day was started in 1998 by the Saturn Corporation and its United Auto Workers partners with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and many nonprofit health organizations.

“Blood donors saved my and my daughter’s life.”

February 10th, 2015


Whether you once needed someone’s blood or you’re just a giving person, we want our blood donors to know how much they’re appreciated. That’s what “Share Your Story” is all about, and we’re highlighting a different donor, recipient or supporter each month.

Dawn Caltagirone

Fourteen years ago, Customs and Border Protection officer Dawn Caltagirone was expecting her fourth child. It was a difficult pregnancy, and at 28 weeks she had to be rushed to the hospital with complications. Her baby had separated and she needed an emergency C-section.

Dawn suffered so much internal damage during the surgery that she bled out and her doctor lost her blood pressure. Thankfully, further surgery and a transfusion of eight units of blood brought Dawn back.

Dawn and Grace Caltagirone

Dawn and Grace Caltagirone

Meanwhile, Dawn’s newborn daughter Grace was taken to Women and Children’s Hospital. She was three months premature and only weighed 2 lbs, 7 ounces. She was struggling to hold on, too. Grace eventually needed a transfusion of one unit of blood to save her life; Dawn says they were lucky to find a donor with a matching AB- blood type.  Dawn’s tiny daughter stayed at the hospital for another four months, and today she is a healthy 14-year-old.

“If it wasn’t for the people who donated blood, both of our lives would have been lost,” says Dawn. After she and Grace survived their harrowing experience, it became very important for Dawn to give back and donate her own blood. She made the decision to donate through Unyts because all of our blood stays local, and a Unyts donor may have helped save her or her daughter’s life.

Dawn takes all of her children to the Unyts blood drives at Customs and Border Protection to educate them about the importance of donating blood.

When asked what she would say to the people who donated the blood that saved her and Grace’s lives, Dawn said, “ Thank you so much. The minutes you put into donating really make a true difference. My kids still have a mother because you donated blood.”

For more information about becoming a blood donor and a list of our Neighborhood Blood Donation Centers, please visit this page.

If you have been touched by the Gift of Life through blood donation, or donate for a reason you feel passionate about, we’d love for you to:


Honoring Our Heroes: Kevin Ryan Hickey

February 1st, 2015

Hickey-KKevin Ryan Hickey became an eye donor upon his passing on January 31, 2014. 

This remembrance was shared by his mother, Michelle Hickey.

Kevin was an amazing young man whose life was ended way too early. He was born with a damaged autonomic system that affected many parts of his body. He could not walk or talk and suffered seizures on a daily basis. But he loved life and had such a contagious smile that could make anyone’s day a little better. He touched many people’s lives…I myself did not realize how much until the last twelve days of his life, when a family member set up a prayer page for him on Facebook and I began to really understand all that my son did for all of us. He loved everyone… family members, his pets and his friends. He loved paying with toys, being with people and seeing the start of a new day… He was an inspiration to everyone that knew him.


Though Kevin had many disabilities and some days were very tough for him, he had a smile every day when he got up and every night before he went to bed. His last 12 days of his life were very difficult but he handled it with grace and dignity. He did not want to see his family suffer and he held on for quite a while. He was a fighter and truly is my hero.


I was not sure about donation at first. It was not a decision that I could ask Kevin. But I did know watching him struggle throughout his life, I wanted to be able to help others. I know that is what Kevin would have wanted. He had the most beautiful blue eyes in the world that sparkled with life and love, knowing that someone is know looking through the world through his eyes is such an amazing tribute.

I honor Kevin’s memory in many ways. I light candles in church, I go to Masses for him, but I also talk to him, hoping for a sign that he is watching over me and his sister. He is not suffering anymore…for the first time in his life he can walk, he can talk, he can do all the things he was not able to do.


Each month, Unyts pays tribute to organ, eye and tissue donors. It seemed fitting to call this feature “Honoring our Heroes” as these donors are heroes to their families and to the people who have received transplants.


If you would like to nominate a loved one who gave the gift of life, please click the button above. Unyts will contact you when your loved one is chosen for the Hero of the Month.