Participants show their support by attending sixth annual event
A wide and varied collection of organizations joined with thousands of donor family members at the sixth annual Donate Life Run/Walk at Cal State Fullerton to support the life-saving cause of organ and tissue donation.
Last year more than 8,000 deceased donors made more than 22,000 organ transplants possible. There were nearly 7,000 transplants from living donors.
However, "demand for organ, eye and tissue transplants continues to grow unmet," according to Donate Life America, "a not-for-profit alliance of national organizations and local coalitions across the United States dedicated to inspiring all people to save and enhance lives through organ, eye and tissue donation," at DonateLife.
"We have already put it in our wills, so that our children know [our wishes]" said Gerrie Karczynski, who works at St. Joseph's Hospital and was there with her husband.
She attends organ donation consultations and renal transplants meetings.
"It's very important to donate because it saves people's lives by giving them life," Karczynski said.
Her husband Stan Karczynski, who works for St. Joseph's Home Health, reiterated those same sentiments.
"If you can save a life through something that happens to me or my wife, it feels good to know ahead of time that I might be able to help somebody," Stan said.
The Karczynskis said anyone of any age can participate in organ donation.
"It doesn't matter how old you are. Older people think that their organs are useless ... don't hesitate because you think you're too old," Karczynski said.
Sandra Ho, Asian Community Development Coordinator for OneLegacy, a Donate Life America organization, is working to motivate people to donate their organs and help and save someone's life.
"[Today] We have more than 6,000 people participating," Ho said. "It gets bigger every year."
There are close to 100,000 people, of all ages awaiting transplants to help them continue their life, according to a One Legacy pamphlet given at the event on April 26.
While the number of participants grows yearly, the message of organ donation is always foremost on the minds of the organizers.
"It's very important because [more than] 13 people die every day while waiting, but these people can be saved," Ho said.
Ho also said that traditionally, Asian Americans do not donate as much as Caucasians, so she is actively seeking to increase organ donation awareness among Asian Americans.
One person who is grateful for organ donation is Todd Sato, the ambassador for Donate Life America.
As of this July, he will have had a transplanted heart for 10 years.
Sato said he had heart surgery when he was three months old and doctors had to switch his aortic valves.
He continued with his life as normal, until he found out during his junior year in high school that he would have to get a heart transplant.
"I graduated high school and two weeks later, I had a heart transplant," Sato said.
This heart transplant saved his life and touched the lives of his family.
"I'm the only one [in his family] who has gone through an ordeal like this," Sato said. "For them to see me every day ... in a way, I'm a walking miracle."
Sato said he is grateful to the donor and the donor's family who gave him the heart.
He said he would be happy to meet the donor's family to thank them for giving him a second chance to live.
"The one thing I would like to say to students is that donating life to someone else is not only a gift to the recipient, but to their family," Sato said.
April was National Donate Life Month, which was established in 2003 to celebrate organ donation.
Americans who have not donated are encouraged to do so, according to the OrganDonor.gov Web site at: Get Involved and at Organ Donor.
"We think at 18 or 22 we know what we're doing or what lies ahead," Sato said. "Honestly, we don't know what tomorrow's going to be like. Don't take life for granted. Live each day to the fullest."
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through tissue donation