This week the Summer World Transplant Games kicked off in Mar de Plata, Argentina. The games, a multi-sport event similar to the Olympics, are intended to visibly demonstrate the benefits of successful organ transplantation and donation, and promote the full rehabilitation and well being of participants.
The World Transplant Games Federation, the organization that organizes the Games, was formed shortly after the first event in 1978 and now consists of almost 70 member countries. Like the Olympics, the Transplant Games alternate years and location, moving from country to country around the world. Subsequently, each country that has hosted the Games has seen an increase of at least 30 percent in organ donation rates after the event.
Over the years it has grown into an occasion that brings transplant recipients and donor families together. Donor families may not have the opportunity to meet their loved one’s recipient directly, but have a chance to see how the impact donation has on someone else’s life. Transplant recipients can show the world that having a transplant is a second chance at life.
In a similar fashion, the Transplant Games of America, a member of the World Transplant Games Federation, also holds an U.S. specific event every two years. Athletes from around the country travel to the host city to compete in varying sports and events.
In the past, LifeCenter Northwest has sponsored families to go to the Transplant Games of America, including the Ropp Family, who attended the 2002 Games in Orlando, Florida. Frank Ropp’s wife, Mary, was a donor in 2000 and
served as an inspiration to many through her generous legacy. Frank and his four children shared the experience with other donor families and recipients, as they all shared stories of their loved ones and reveled in the gift of life that connected them all.
The Ropp’s visit to Orlando- which included a visit to Disney World – still stands out to Frank as one of his favorite memories, especially for his kids.
Traditionally living donors and donor families are honored at the Games during the Opening Ceremony, as they make transplantation possible. The feeling of walking into the Transplant Games Opening Ceremony was incredibly humbling for Frank and his children. As they entered the Disney Wide World Sports Complex, the location of the 2002 Games, they had no idea how many people would be there to watch the ceremony – what they saw took their breath away. Over 50,000 people came to watch the families enter the stadium, and give them a round of applause.
“It was awe inspiring, I am grateful to the day I die that I was able to experience that,” said Frank.
The games will continue throughout the week until Sunday, August 30th. A live-stream is available to watch here.