CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - 2016 is a very big year in Cleveland when it comes to organ, tissue, and eye transplant.
The Transplant Games mean so much for so many reasons. It's all about celebrating the miracles that come from organ, eye and tissue donation; but, it's also Cleveland's chance to shine when it comes to showing how our fine city can really make a difference.
Thursday morning, you might say was the "unofficial" kick-off at the Cleveland Convention Center with a pep rally for the games and the send off of the state wide "torch carry." A torch will be taken from city to city to gear up the entire state for the big event. Lifebanc CEO, Gordon Bowen, explains it like this "to me the torch is a sign of life...the flame is ever glowing and what happens when someone gets a transplant you pass the love of a hero onto another individual."
Eversight Ohio, which makes cornea transplants happen, is also hosting the games. The Executive Director, Debbie May-Johnson says, "we hope the community will come to the heart of Cleveland at the convention center and different venues to really witness the remarkable thing that happens in our own community."
And the third major host helping to make this happen is the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. Their CEO is David Gilbert who calls the event magical, "you hear stories and see these donor families watch someone cross the finish line with the heart that used be in their loved one."
It's estimated upwards of ten thousand people will come in for it from all over the country...like the last games held in Houston in 2014. 25 sporting events are planned altogether. All the competitors are organ, tissue, bone marrow and eye transplant recipients as well as living donors. With many in attendance expected to be the loved ones of deceased donors.
While you can see the competitive spirit it's about so much more than a win, everyone involved already victorious.
"We're talking about the second chance at life for the recipients. Also the opportunity for a donor family and donor to be a hero again. So again, you got donor families and recipients all celebrating life at the same time in one venue," Gordon Bowden explains.
That, you might say, takes inspiration to a whole new level.
Then, of course, there's the awareness that comes with the games about the importance of registering to be an organ donor. And there's plenty of opportunity for anyone to get involved with the games, they run from June 10, 2015 - 15th. Volunteers are needed.
For more information on the games and on the gifts of life and sight click here.
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