‘Rochester Night of Hope’ raises awareness of organ donation, early detection

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In an event aimed at raising awareness for lifesaving heart transplants, the Foundation for Organ Donation and Sarcoidosis hosted a film festival Thursday — “Rochester Night of Hope” — featuring heart transplant survivor Steve Hilfiker.

Hilfiker is from Victor and graduated from SUNY Geneseo. He credits the University of Rochester Medical Center with saving his life when he suffered from cardiac sarcoidosis and underwent a heart transplant at URMC in 2020.

The Little Theatre screened “Warriors: The Bernie Mac Disease,” a documentary film produced by Hilfiker about comedian Bernie Mac’s battle with sarcoidosis. The documentary is told from the perspective of Bernie Mac’s widow, Rhonda McCullough, and was screened at Cannes International Film Festival earlier this year.

“We’re looking to save lives from both directions,” Hilfiker said, stressing the importance of both early detection and organ donation. “We’re trying to increase awareness – there’s really no reason why anyone should not be an organ donor; you’re going to donate them somewhere, you’re going to donate them to the ground, the air or to someone like me who needs a second chance of life,” he said.

Other heart transplant recipients took the stage with Hilfiker on Thursday, thanking the cardiologists who saved their lives.

Hilfiker said he initially been misdiagnosed, then correctly diagnosed at URMC. He received several heart donation offers and underwent a successful transplant at URMC after having battled cardiac sarcoidosis for six years.

A similar event, “Victor Night of Hope,” was held Wednesday at Regal Eastview in Victor.

“This is all about the gift of life. There’s nothing like a second chance. And you don’t need to go through a heart transplant to have a second chance,” Hilfiker said.

To learn more about Hilfiker’s mission, visit this site. And to learn more about donating organs, click here.