Is there a transplant athlete from your neighborhood?
[Lisle, Illinois] – Claudia, Andrea, Joy, and Cyndi have many things in common—they are mothers; they live in Illinois; and they are among a special group of hero donor families whose loved ones donated an organ, tissue or cornea (in many cases, more than one) upon their deaths. They’ve turned their losses into loving advocacy for organ and tissue donation.
“My 10-year-old son, Ezra, died in 2019, and I made the decision to donate his organs because it was something I felt he would want to do,” says his mother, Andrea Harden. “My outlook has changed because I now understand the importance of organ and tissue donation.”
Andrea will help spread the life-giving message about organ and tissue donation as part of Team Illinois at the 2022 Donate Life Transplant Games, July 29-August 3 in San Diego. She is among a contingent of donor family members sponsored by Gift of Hope, transplant recipients and living donors who will compete at the games.
“An organ and tissue donor is a hero to any transplant recipient. Their family members are special because they fulfill the wishes of their loved one at a very difficult time,” says Brian Stiner, manager of Team Illinois. “We are so grateful to have the donor family representatives from Gift of Hope joining us this year in San Diego to celebrate the gift of life and commemorate their loved ones’ contributions to our stories.”
Among the athletes competing on Team Illinois are nine kidney recipients – including a three-time kidney recipient, a kidney/pancreas recipient, and a kidney/lung recipient – three heart recipients and four liver transplant recipients.
All in all there are 16 athletes, 22 donor family members, one living donor, and a dozen or so loyal supporters and fans who will travel to San Diego in July as part of Team Illinois. More than 10,000 people from 37 states and three countries are expected to attend the 2022 Transplant Games, a multi-sports festival held every two years in different cities around the country.
Among the more than 20 competitive events are basketball, volleyball, trivia, tennis, cornhole, bowling, pickleball, cycling, table tennis, golf, Texas hold 'em, swimming, and track and field trials.
Illinois’ “Spare Parts” basketball team – all solid organ transplant recipients -- has been competing at the games since 1996. The competition may be intense at times, but sportsmanship always prevails. This year’s team consists of Bob Anthony, Eric Fischer, Geno Bianchi, Ross Owens, Steve Patzia, Freddy Perez, Brian Stiner, and Jerry Taylor.
Team volleyball will include Bob Anthony, Geno Bianchi, Nicole Brown, Susan English, Eric Fischer, Monica Fox, David Keys, JP Marzano, Ross Owens, Freddy Perez, Steve Patzia, Brad Szczesinski, Brian Stiner, and Jerry Taylor.
Team Trivia will include Nicole Brown, Nick Di Brizzi, Susan English, Eric Fischer, Monica Fox, and Deb Ramsey. Donor family members have their own trivia team.
Team Illinois transplant recipient athletes hail from Batavia, Carol Stream, Chicago, Darien, Elmhurst, Evanston, Flossmoor, Hillsboro, Lombard, Springfield, Sycamore, and Zion.
Transplant Life Illinois is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that brings together transplant recipients, living donors, donor families, and their family and friends to promote awareness of the critical need for organ, eye, bone marrow and tissue donations and increase the number of potential donors on the state registry. Through participation in the Donate Life Transplant Games, we show the world that transplantation saves and enhances the lives of recipients while commemorating those who selflessly gave the gift of life.
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