Houston made history this year during the Transplant Games of America, where more than 3,000 people participated in the biannual event to celebrate the gift of life and the advancements of lifesaving transplant surgery, the largest turnout in the event’s 22-year history.
Transplant recipients, living donors, donor families and their supporters gathered from across the country, with some traveling from as far as Puerto Rico, to come together for the five-day multi-sport festival.
Local organizers said they were thrilled to have so many people participate in the event, which aims to inspire more people to become registered organ donors. “These Games symbolized hope in its greatest form for transplant recipients and donor families,” said Kevin Myer, president and CEO of LifeGift. “For transplant recipients, the Games demonstrated that one can overcome remarkable odds and still live life to the fullest; for donor families, the Games were a way to pay tribute to those who have left lasting legacies through their generous gifts of organ, eye and tissue donation.”
The event featured a variety of activities for the participants and the public. The opening ceremony was held at BBVA Compass Stadium and included a parade of athletes and volunteers, a presentation of a balloon sculpture created with the assistance of lung transplant recipients, fireworks and a performance by American Idol finalist Scott MacIntyre.
Rice University co-hosted the track and field and aquatic events, while downtown others gathered for cycling events, and at the George R. Brown convention center participants competed in indoor sports ranging from ballroom dancing to volleyball. Throughout the week, there were tributes and special celebrations for donor families to honor the legacy of their loved ones.
On the final day of the games, medals were awarded to winners of all the competitions. Team Texas, by a combined effort of their 300 member team, took home the Spirit Award. The award was well deserved for a team whose state has more than doubled the number of registered donors in the past two years.
At the closing ceremony, new friends and old friends shared their goodbyes. Families celebrated their loved ones’ achievements, whether they came in first or last. Everyone was proud of the collective efforts. Robert C. Robbins, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the Texas Medical Center and honorary chair of the Transplant Games of America Local Organizing Committee felt especially grateful for being a part of the event and the real-life connections he made.
“It was an honor and a privilege to have been involved in the Transplant Games, and to have had the opportunity to welcome all of the transplant recipients, living donors and donor families to the great state of Texas,” said Robbins. “The energy surrounding the games was incredible, and it was great to see such tremendous involvement from the Medical Center and the local community. It was also personally rewarding to see a former patient of mine, a lung recipient from California, enjoying the games and celebrating the gift of life. Stories like hers, and those of all of the athletes we met during the games, truly demonstrate why organ donor registration is so important.”
— Zoe Quezada, Texas Medical Center
Baylor College of Medicine will be closed Monday, May 28 in observance of Memorial Day. https://t.co/6CNQMhyJ92
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Baylor College of Medicine will be closed Monday, May 28 in observance of Memorial Day.
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Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran M. Ross Kirk. Ross served for 28 years and retired in 1988. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Ross served two tours in Vietnam with the 4/39th Infantry Battalion, the 9th Infantry Division and the 5th Special Forces Group with the Chaplain Corps. He was also a member of the 101st Airborne Division, the 18th Airborne Corps 1st Division, and the Green Beret Parachute Demonstration Team. He wore the Green Beret on active duty for nine years and is nicknamed the “Leapin’ Deacon” due to his 225 military jumps, including 50 HALO (high altitude, low opening) jumps and 450 sport parachute jumps. Ross’ positions in the Army included Command Chaplain for the Special Operations Command (Airborne) and Senior Chaplain of the Combined Peacekeeping Forces in the liberation of Grenada. He retired at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1988 and has lived with his wife Judy in Wakefield, Kansas for 27 years. They have four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Ross was awarded four Bronze Stars, five Air Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. He also earned the Ranger Tab, the Special Forces Tab and Master Parachutist and Air Assault Badges. Thank you for your service, Ross!
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