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
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