Health First’s Tiger Team Promotes Life-Saving Organ Donation

By  //  October 24, 2012

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Provides Awareness, Funding For Organ Donation

The term “Tiger Team,” which originated in the space industry, refers to a group of individuals united in solving a serious problem.

THE TIGER TEAM: Top row, left to right – Suzanne Muliolis, Lions Eye Institute; Stephanie Cranfield, RN, Chair CCH Tiger Team; Leo Paradis, President, BCOTSG, Brevard County ORGAN, Inc., Heart & Kidney Transplant Recipient; and Barbara Seymour, RN, CCH Nurse Manager of Critical Care and Surgical Services. Bottom row, left to right – Father Bob Bruckart, Co-Chair Health First Tiger Team; Dee Rogers, Co-Chair Health First Tiger Team; Amelia Fuguro, RN, CCH, Emergency Department, Mary Gainey, Co-Founder of the Tiger Teams and Tammy Adams, CCH Administration, CCH Tiger Team Treasurer. (Image for

Health First’s Tiger Team, formed in 1990, is fiercely interested in educating the public about the importance of organ and tissue donation. The group was created after nurses Mary Gainey of Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital and Judi Cavazos of Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center heard of the concept during a conference of the International Association for Nurses Endorsing Transplantation.

Over the ensuing years, the Tiger Team has raised awareness of the need for organ transplants through venues that have ranged from health fairs and bone marrow drives to surf tournaments and a children’s calendar contest.

The Health First Tiger Team has also provided $100,000 in grants to families who have experienced or are awaiting organ donations for one of their members.

Health First’s Eagles Employees’ Giving Program, which has raised almost $2 million for worthy community projects. Above, the EAGLES steering committe includes Beth Duncan, Edwina Szelag, Judy Cavazos, Barbara Couch, Kathy Cohen, Pam Bridges, Dee Rogers, Nancy Kivlehen, Billie Darling, Tammy Adams, Katherine Cabana, Tina Waggoner, Dana Kelley Ashley, Mark Clemens, Kay Ives, Brenda Burgener, Lori Haws and Tammi Prillhart. (Image for Space Coast Medicine & Active Living)

Around the United States at any given time, more than 100,000 children and adults await organ donations, but 18 of these individuals will die each day, simply because there are not enough organs for transplant. The need for organ donation remains critical, so the Tiger Team focuses its efforts in educating healthcare staff and the general public.

Health First partners with Translife, East Central Florida’s federally designated organ donor program, as well as with the Southeast Tissue Alliance and the Lions’ Eye Institute, to help the 100,000 persons waiting for life-saving organ donations. The hospital system’s culture is extremely supportive of organ donations, evident whether you are speaking with the CEO or a volunteer.

For example, for several years, Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center received medals of honor from the Health Resources and Services Administration for its efforts in saving lives by encouraging organ donations.

More than 4,500 large Tiger Team calendars and 6,000 pocket versions are distributed each year, serving as an effective tool in raising the number of organ donations, since each calendar carries a donor card. (Image for

Together with the Association of Nurses Endorsing Transplantation, Health First’s Tiger Team hosts the “Life, Keep It Going” conference on organ and tissue donation. The event significantly increases understanding of the organ transplant issue among paramedics, trauma and ICU nurses and emergency personnel.

The Brevard County Organ Transplant Support Group endorses the project. Families of donors and recipients have movingly shared their stories at the conference. Here, too, is where the Tiger Team calendar is unveiled every year.

Brevard school children are invited to submit their picture and poems on the importance of organ donations for inclusion in the calendar resulting in more than 500 students entering the contest annually. Every page of the colorful calendar features the artwork of a Brevard student who has created a pictorial plea for organ donation.

Dee Rogers

“These kids are amazing,” said Tiger Team’s co-chair Dee Rogers, a Health First education specialist. “They draw pictures and write poems that just nail the concept. They have such a special perspective.”

More than 4,500 large Tiger Team calendars and 6,000 pocket versions are distributed each year, serving as an effective tool in raising the number of organ donations, since each calendar carries a donor card.

“It is another way to make people aware of the need for organ donation,” said Rogers.

The calendar is made possible through donations from Health First’s Eagles Employees’ Giving Program, which has raised almost $2 million for worthy community projects.

“The calendar goes all over the country, so we know we are making a difference around the nation,” said Rogers.



The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world. 

This year, more than 40 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.

“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.

All Humanitarian alumni are presented a specially commissioned medallion.

“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as,” said Dr. Palermo.

This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Community Credit Union, Kindred Hospital, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, and

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail