More than 150 guests attended the International Black Women’s Congress 14th Annual Organ Donation Awareness Gala at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott on April 8, 2017. The event sponsor was Donate Life Virginia.
The evening started with a VIP reception, followed by delicious dinner. The guests enjoyed an evening of music by Dee Polite and the Phenomenal Sounds Band. Zakiyyah Zai’mah from New Jersey served as Mistress of Ceremonies, and Elaine Harold Robinson from New Jersey represented the Board of Directors and gave On the Occasion. Rev. John Harrison, Associate Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Norfolk gave the Invocation. As a pancreas recipient, Rev. Harrison knows that organ donation works.
The speaker for the evening was Dr. Clive O. Callender, M.D., the first African-American to perform an organ transplant in the United States. His life story was uplifting and showed what one can accomplish with a belief in self and God on your side. Dr. Callender told the audience that his undergraduate grades were not outstanding, but he was admitted to medical school nonetheless, and four years later graduated the top student in his class.
The highlight of the evening was the Matters of the Heart Awards. Each recipient had a testimony, which moved many of the guests to tears. Their stories let us know why we as African-Americans need to sign the donor card. They were:
1. Tonya Bagwell-Bailey from the Eastern Shore of Virginia is a 23 year kidney recipient and LifeNet volunteer.
2. Victoria Brown is the aunt of twelve year old William Vernon Brown, who organs were donated after he drowned in what he thought was a frozen pond. The family for fifteen years has been volunteering for LifeNet.
3. Rev. Dr. William K. Dixon, with 20 years of experience in the health care field, came in from Columbus, Ohio. He is a native of Norfolk and a staff chaplain at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Ross Heart Hospital.
4. Rodney Dortch is a living organ donor. On May 13, 2014, he donated a kidney to his wife Mary Roisten Dortch. They are Deacon and Deaconess is their church.
5. Romero “Rome” Johnson, suffered from heart disease for almost 35 years before he received a heart transplant in 2015. He and his wife visit and minister to heart patients in the Tidewater area.
6. Rev. Dr. Yvonne Wright-Dunn is the Director of Cardiac operations and Clinical Research at Sentara Heart Hospital and Pastor of the Birthing Place Worship Center in Portsmouth. She has blended scientific with the spiritual as she delivers services to those in need.
Dr. La Francis Rodgers-Rose, Ph.D., a 14 year heart transplant recipient and founder of IBWC, thanked everyone for supporting the event. She said when you are planning for such an occasion, there is always uncertainty until it actually occurs.
Dr. Rodgers-Rose was overwhelmed by the support the organization received and look forward to continuing to bring awareness of the need for organ donation in the African-American community. The evening ended with the guests dancing to the music of Dee Polite and the Phenomenal Sounds Band.
If you would like IBWC to come to your organization or church, please call (757) 625-0500.