The Wedding Vows Heard ‘Round the World

The Wedding Vows Heard 'Round the World

Heart recipient walks donor dad's daughter down the aisle

One of the pivotal moments in a father’s life is when he gets the opportunity to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding and give her away to her soon-to-be-husband. Pittsburgh-area resident Jeni Stepien lost her dad Michael long before her blessed day, but the miracle of organ donation ensured that Michael was part of the ceremony. Michael Stepien’s heart went to Arthur “Tom” Thomas, who eagerly accepted Jeni’s invitation to escort her down the aisle during her recent wedding in August.

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), the designated organ procurement organization in greater Pittsburgh, attended the meeting between donor family and recipient and media around the world embraced the opportunity to tell the life-affirming story.

The first reports captured the moment Tom met Jeni and held her finger to his wrist to feel her father’s pulse. During the procession down the aisle, Jeni paused for a moment to put her hand on her father’s heart.

In the ensuing days while the newlyweds enjoyed their honeymoon, Jeni’s story provided an impactful example of the life-altering power of organ donation.

Coverage of her wedding day went viral and included the CBS Evening News, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post and media in Australia. This garnered more than 1.7 billion impressions with approximately 310,000 shares across social media, placing the conversation about organ, tissue and cornea donation at the center of the media sphere for several days.

About CORE

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the United States. CORE works closely with donor families and designated health care professionals to coordinate the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also facilitates the computerized matching of donated organs and placement of corneas. With headquarters in Pittsburgh and an office in Charleston, West Virginia, CORE oversees a region that encompasses 155 hospitals and almost six million people throughout western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, NY. For more information, visit or call 1-800-DONORS-7.

Jeff Jones