Fort Myers man promotes organ donation from the second row of Elton John concert despite hurricane

Posted at 8:16 AM, Oct 03, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — One fan in the crowd at Sunday's Elton John show at Nissan Stadium in Nashville went for more than just the music. Heart transplant recipient Steve Hilfiker went to promote organ donation.

"There are thousands of people dying because they're waiting for an organ and there's no reason to not be an organ donor," said Steve Hilfiker.

In 2020, Hilfiker was put on life support. His rare heart condition, cardiac sarcoidosis, was taking over. Hilfiker became one of the fortunate ones. He received a heart from a man named Daniel Ray French who was a perfect match.

After his transplant, Hilfiker decided to devote his life to promoting organ donation.

Nothing, not even a hurricane, would stop him.

Hilfiker is from Fort Myers, Florida. His hometown was just rocked by a Category 4 Hurricane.

"Our beach is gone. We were about 10 miles away from the eye wall. It was a harrowing day. The community was devastated," Hilfiker said.

Despite the devastation, Hilfiker kept his plans to come to Nashville to advocate for organ donation. He planned to do so from the second row of Elton John's concert. In a bright red shirt and holding a sign, he's championed organ donation at six Elton John shows so far.

"People approach us and say, 'we saw you on the news, Instagram, Facebook.' They come up and Elton John fans are really getting behind our mission for organ donation," he said.

Recently, Hilfiker started bringing his organ donor's sister, Vannessa Blais, to the concerts.

"I'm just glad that it went to a deserving person who is doing wonderful things," said Blais. "And to see what we're doing together — words can't describe how wonderful it is, how amazing it is."

In addition to spreading awareness at Elton John concerts for The Daniel Foundation/FODASA (Foundation for Organ Donation and Sarcoidosis Awareness), Hilfiker is also working on legislation in Florida that would increase cardiac sarcoidosis research and he's also working on a documentary to promote organ donation.

You can sign up to become an organ donor on Hilfiker's website in honor of his organ donor Daniel.

This article was written by Hannah McDonald for WTVF.