Kelly Pearce has seen firsthand how organ donation can change someone’s life. Her best friend underwent a heart transplant and a kidney transplant.

“I have learned so much about organ donation through her,” said Pearce, a registered nurse at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Pearce is always eager to share the inspiring story.

“It can provide hope to those going through transplants when I share that my best friend is living proof of how a transplant can impact someone’s life,” she said.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Pearce joined nurses, doctors and other team members as they greeted children and families at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in celebration of National Donate Life Month.

A leading star of the show: Hartley T. Heart, the new mascot for Gift of Life Michigan, who stopped by to greet patients and visitors and spread the word about organ donation.

National Donate Life Month celebrates the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow and blood donors. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness and encourage others to become donors.

Kids and team members at the children’s hospital took a moment to snap photos with Hartley, laughing and smiling as they hugged the giant, cuddly walking heart.

Hossain Marandi, MD, president of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and Julia Steinke, MD, medical director for the pediatric kidney transplant program, were also on hand for the special day.

Dr. Steinke said organ donation is extremely important for the work of her team.

“A lot of kids don’t have available living donors and we really do depend on the loving generosity of living donors that they might not know,” she said. “You can make sure you are a registered donor and get the heart symbol on your license. It all helps.”

Dr. Steinke said about 50 percent of her patients receive organ donations from living donors—a relative or friend.

And sometimes, it’s just amazing people who want to give the gift of life to a child.