Spotlight: Chelsea Long Memorial Scholarship

Chelsea Long lived her first 9 years in perfect health, with no signs of what she would ultimately face. However, her world changed when an unexpected virus targeted her kidney. Thankfully, her father, Mike, a perfect match, bravely donated one of his kidneys, and in 2003 she received her first kidney transplant. Though Chelsea faced the typical challenges of a transplant recipient, she managed to overcome them and thrived as a teenager. This culminated in her graduation from Perry High School in 2012.

As Chelsea entered her early twenties, subtle signs began to hint at the possibility of another transplant. Eventually, the need became undeniable, leading her back into the realm of medical uncertainty. This time, however, finding a suitable donor proved to be a formidable challenge. Chelsea would have to wait on the transplant list for four years. Forced to undergo dialysis, she confronted the ordeal with admirable courage.

Her brother Chad describes her as “the strongest person [he knew]. She went through so much but was never the kind of person to let it get her down. She wanted to be out in the world and to make a difference.” He recalls that “she never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her because she didn’t feel sorry for herself. She lived every day to the fullest.”

A New Perspective

After enduring years of anticipation, Chelsea’s patience was rewarded in 2019 when she received the long-awaited call for her second kidney transplant. With the successful procedure behind her, Chelsea embraced life with renewed vigor. She spent her time with her friends, her many aunts, uncles, and cousins, her boyfriend, and of course, being a huge animal lover, her dogs and cats. Her days were filled with simple pleasures, from exhilarating tubing adventures to the wind-in-her-hair rides on her Uncle Todd’s motorcycle. She loved going out for Mexican food and getting pedicures with her mom, Renée. Chelsea’s love for live music also brought her immense happiness, as she relished the infectious energy of concerts and festivals.

In this chapter of her life, Chelsea reveled in the beauty of the ordinary. She found fulfillment in the small moments that filled her days. “She lived completely carefree and approached every day in a brave way that [Chad] really admired. [Chad is] so grateful she got to experience her own adult life, however short it may have been.”

Pursuing Her Calling

Chelsea’s transplant journey shaped her entire worldview. “Transplant patients go through so much, but there are people who make that journey livable.” Chad remembers that “her care teams were really good about helping in all the best ways. They made her feel comfortable, particularly the nurses.” Driven by a deep-seated desire to pay forward the compassion and care she had received, Chelsea resolved to pursue a career in nursing. Nursing school beckoned as the next chapter in her journey of service and empathy.

Chelsea overcame her medical challenges to receive an Associate’s Degree in Pre-Nursing from Georgia Military College, and by 2021, she was working on her second year of the nursing program at Wesleyan College in Macon. Tragically, her aspirations fell short due to a battle with COVID-19, leaving that dream unfulfilled. Despite this heart-wrenching outcome, Chad knows that “she would’ve been such a great nurse. She was casual, funny, joyous, silly, and so caring,” and he knows her patients would’ve had the same admiration that she had for her nurses.

Maintaining Chelsea’s Legacy

Chad described grief as “all of the love you have for someone that doesn’t have a place to go.” Chelsea’s family wanted to find a way to maintain her legacy and create somewhere for people to put their love for her. He already knew GTF and the Academic Scholarship Program well and figured it was a “no-brainer” to reach out and see if GTF could install one in her name. Thus, the Chelsea Long Memorial Scholarship was born. Although she was not able to become a nurse herself, her name would be forever etched into the stories of other transplant patients who would get a chance to pursue theirs because of the scholarship.

Chad and his family are blown away by the number of donations they’ve received towards Chelsea’s scholarship fund. Through 100+ donors, they have raised over $100,000 that will go to ensuring the Chelsea Long Memorial Scholarship, and through it, Chelsea herself, lives on. Knowing Chelsea’s love for the holidays, Chad and his husband took it upon themselves to create clay ornaments that represented Chelsea to give to each person who helped fund the scholarship. Now, not only will Chelsea live on through the scholarship recipients but also through her ornament hanging on the Christmas tree of every person who cared to maintain her legacy.

A Grateful Recipient

Chad considers himself lucky to have been in touch with several of the scholarship recipients. All of them are immensely grateful and take pride in carrying Chelsea’s legacy with them. Recipient Devon Jacobs shares “Chelsea Long Scholarship has given me hope, motivation, and confidence in my ability to succeed as a future nursing student. This scholarship means so much to me because I know I am not alone on this journey.” Devon will always remember Chelsea as she lives out the dream of becoming a nurse for both of them.

Although Chelsea is no longer here, her name and her spirit will live forever. To learn more about the Chelsea Long Memorial Scholarship and to apply to GTF’s Academic Scholarship Program, please visit Academic Scholarships | Georgia Transplant Foundation (