LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Gift of Life Hero's Burial Funds

Idea by Ava's Heart

Many organ donor families in LA are low-income and not financially prepared for an unexpected death of a loved one. Ava's Heart is the only organization that assists the families of organ donors with burial and cremation expenses for their loved ones, who can save up to eight lives with organs and many more with eye and tissue donation. We believe these heroes deserve to be put to rest with dignity.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The issue we are addressing is that instance of when a family whose loved one dies as an organ donor, but they cannot afford to bury them. Although millions of people are registered to become organ donors only 2% of those organs are viable for transplantation. So the import of being a donor whose organs are used is huge. Organ donor families find so much peace knowing that their loved one is passing on the gift of life to someone else, that they are at least leaving a legacy behind. One never knows what the person receiving the gift of life will accomplish with that gift. Without the donor, there is no lifesaving transplant. Organ Procurement Agencies provide much emotional support to donor families but it is unlawful for them to assist these families financially. Families who have lost someone whose death saves lives deserve thanks, and if needed, financial help for a dignified burial. Almost 75% of those we help are Hispanic, and all are low-income families living in LA.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Our Donor Assistance Program is simple. We work closely with OneLegacy, the Organ Procurement Agency here in LA. They identify those donors whose families are in need of financial help to bury or cremate their loved ones. We speak with them and have them fill out our application. We then send the burial or cremation center a check to cover all or part of it, depending on our funds at that time. Transplantation is a fast and growing field. Seven years ago only 25,000 transplants were performed in the US. Last year over 41,000 were performed. 35% of these were performed here in LA. In the past we were able to pay for the entire cost of a burial, but we now get so many requests that we can only pay $200 towards each, which is about one-quarter of the cost.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our long-term goal is to be able to pay on a sliding scale a portion of or the entire cost of the burial for all donor families in LA County, depending on their need and income level. We wish to deepen our relationships with funeral homes to receive discounted prices for donor families. Our vision is that this will create a broader sense of community in LA. It will show appreciation for those that have less and still give their organs so that others may live. It will encourage others to become organ donors. It will show donor families that others appreciate and value them. It will provide hope in the midst of a dark time for these families, and hope spreads like ripples in a pond. We speak to these families daily. Even a small amount towards the burial touches them deeply. They are grateful that someone cares about their loss and their loved one's gift. Ava herself is a heart transplant recipient. She gives thanks to her donor every day for being able to watch her daughter grow up.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

For Ava's Heart, success is when we see donor families bury their loved ones, give back, and connect with each other to share their journeys. We measure the impact of our program through keeping in contact with the families we have touched. Organ donation and transplantation is a community. We have many events like the DonateLife Run-Walk, and the Rose Parade, there's a Donor Garden, Donor Teams, OneLegacy has grief counseling - we see these families over and over again. We are all part of this family through our community partner, OneLegacy. We receive thank-you notes from the families, photos when there are milestones, many of them volunteer for us at events and become DonateLife and OneLegacy Ambassadors. Most of the donor's families become part of this community of those who really understand how valuable life is. This makes for a kinder, more compassionate community here in LA. There is no greater gift than the gift of life.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 93

Indirect Impact: 400