Spotlight: Daly “Perfect Match” Scholarship

Connie Daly’s life took a tumultuous turn in 2003 with a diagnosis that shattered her world: chronic kidney disease. Through the ensuing years of grueling treatments and medications, her quest for a compatible kidney donor felt like an endless journey. Several compatibility tests came and went, but still, no match. Ultimately, her savior came in the form of someone unexpected: her husband. 

Ed and Connie Daly went six for six on matching antigens, an incredibly rare feat for people who are not related. Miraculously, her perfect match in marriage had now become her perfect match in transplant. In 2009, Connie finally received her second chance at life via her husband’s kidney. Connie remembers it as “an absolute miracle. Ed is a real hero.”

Lending a Helping Hand

15 years later, Connie and Ed are both still doing well. It really is “a happy ending story,” Connie shared. Although things worked out for Connie, she couldn’t ignore the plight of others in the transplant community. It was this empathy that led her to volunteer with GTF. Connie’s determination to make a difference in the lives of those still waiting for their miracle was palpable. After several years, Connie joined the scholarship committee that selects which applicants receive scholarships from GTF each year. 

Connie recalls one year when there were so many good applicants that “tugged at [her] heartstrings. There were just too many people left over that I felt were deserving, and there weren’t enough scholarships available.” That’s when Connie decided to fund her own scholarship, appropriately named the Daly “Perfect Match” Scholarship.

The Dalys have worked to fund the scholarship so that it can maintain a lasting legacy. Connie shared that she “just wanted to be able to take the pressure off for someone, even a small amount. Whether it’s tuition or books, to be able to take care of something for these kids who are trying so hard and have a lot of other stresses in their lives is everything.”

A Parallel Journey

Perhaps no “kid” embodies the type of person Connie set out to help more than Mikayla Cleary. Her father, Rohan, received a kidney disease diagnosis in 2011. As it progressively got worse, he found himself on dialysis. As the years went on, with Mom and Dad having to focus their attention on his health, Mikayla stepped into something of a parental role for her younger sister.

Her Mother, Jeannette, remembers that “Mikayla not only became a caretaker, but a leader.” As a senior in high school, Mikayla helped her father get to his appointments, took care of her sister, captained the cheerleading team, and won homecoming queen, all while maintaining a 3.7 GPA. Jeannette recalled that “she was so strong at such a young age. She had more responsibility than 99% of kids her age.”

In the end, Rohan, too, found his savior in the person closest to him. Jeannette miraculously was his perfect match as well. Rohan received his wife’s kidney and is now in good health. Jeannette has a rosy perspective on the hardships her family went through. “I’m grateful for our journey,” she shared. “It was overwhelming, but we took it in stride. We did everything that we had to do, and through the grace of God, we became closer as a family. It was a life-changing journey for all of us, and we came out of it more faithful and more in tune with each other.”

A Happy Ending

With the parallels between the Daly’s and Cleary’s stories, Mikayla was an obvious candidate for receiving the Daly “Perfect Match” Scholarship. Jeannette remembers that her family “was under a large financial burden. We had to take off work for a while, and combined with the price of Rohan’s medicines, it was a lot.” For the Clearys, the scholarship “came right on time.” Mikayla was able to use her scholarship to propel her through her time at Georgia State, where she’ll be graduating from this week with her degree in exercise science. Jeannette and the Clearys are “extremely thankful for GTF and the Daly “Perfect Match” Scholarship.”

In the transplant world, the recipient and the donor receive the majority of the focus. While that attention is warranted, Mikayla’s story demonstrates the importance of every single person involved in the organ transplant process. As a dependent of an organ recipient, Mikayla stepped up as a caretaker, taking on responsibilities she could’ve never imagined, all while maintaining her excellent standing as a student. GTF offers scholarships that aid all members of the transplant community, including dependents. 

To learn more about the Daly “Perfect Match” Scholarship and to apply to GTF’s Academic Scholarship Program, please visit Academic Scholarships | Georgia Transplant Foundation (