LOS ANGELES, April 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Continuing with its mission of inspiring and educating the community about the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation in Southern California, the Donate Life Run/Walk & Family Festival is reaching a new milestone this year, with its 15th anniversary celebration. The largest event of its kind in the U.S., this year's Run/Walk will gather over 12,000 people who have been touched by donation in one way or another.
The 15th Anniversary celebration will also include special guests appearances, 2006 World Series MVP and former Anaheim Angels Shortstop, David Eckstein, a donor advocate who participated in the first Run/Walk; and American Idol Alum and organ recipient, Scott MacIntyre, who will debut his new song's video, "Hope is Rising," featuring footage from the Donate Life Run/Walk.
Craig and Kathleen Hostert founded the event in 2003, to celebrate the second chance at life that Craig received from his wife Kathleen, and several years later from his son, Justin. The Hosterts share a personal connection to the cause, and they have vowed to do all they could do to promote donation and help those who are still waiting for a lifesaving transplant.
"We came up with the idea of creating a walk to get people to talk about the need for organ donation," said Kathleen Hostert, Executive Director of the Run/Walk and Public Education Manager for OneLegacy, the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the seven-county greater Los Angeles area. "We mobilized our friends and family together and met regularly in our backyard to help build the event and bring awareness of kidney donation."
Initially called the Gift of Life Run/Walk, the first event gathered over 1,300 people. With the creation of the donor registry in 2005, the event changed its name to the Donate Life Run/Walk & Family Festival. Over the last 14 years, more than 110 thousand people have gathered every last Saturday of April to celebrate the lifesaving power of organ, eye and tissue donation.
15 YEARS OF PARTICIPANTS
This year's Donate Life Run/Walk &Family Festival will include the attendance of 260 donor family teams, 48 hospital teams, thousands of organ, eye and tissue recipients and their families, as well as health and fitness enthusiasts and dozens of groups who gather every year to celebrate the gift of life.
For many donor families, like the Hansens, the Donate Life Run/Walk has become a tradition, as they gather with family and friends to honor their loved ones, who now live on in the many people they have saved or healed through organ, eye and tissue donation. Donna Hansen and her family and friends have participated in the Run/Walk since 2005.
"The last Saturday in April represents a special holiday for us," said Hansen, who joined the Run/Walk in 2005 to honor her son Jasun. "For the last 12 years, we have gather at the Run/Walk to celebrate Jasun's life and his legacy. Jasun became an organ donor in 2001 at the age of 19, and every year we get together with our closest friends and family to remember him. We even have a close relationship with one of Jasun's kidney recipients, Erika Wells, who has joined our team for several years, and who is walking this year with us, along with her family."
This year's donor family teams will bring over 4,000 participants to the Donate Life Run/Walk.
For organ recipients Regina Armstrong and Kari Reynolds, this year's Run/Walk has a very special meaning. They are both celebrating the 30th anniversary of their heart transplants, and a very strong bond that started in the hospital, when they both underwent heart transplant surgeries within days of each other. "Our moms are best friends and we are heart sisters," said Regina Armstrong, who joined the Run/Walk with Kari in 2015. "We are very fortunate to be able to support each other with our unique needs, and the Run/Walk has inspired us and strengthened our bond," said Kari Reynolds, a three-time heart recipient, and kidney recipient. They have enjoyed the Run/Walk together for the last two years, and they hope to inspire others to register as donors. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for our donors," shared Kari and Regina.
The Donate Life Run/Walk is produced by OneLegacy, the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in seven Southern California counties.
"We are pleased to see the enthusiastic participation of many thousands of Southern California people who want to share the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation," said Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy. "We look forward to inspiring even more to choose to Donate Life, by visiting their local DMV or registering online at Donate Life California, and save the lives of more than 22,000 Californians who are currently waiting for a lifesaving organ, or enhance the lives of thousands more in need of donated tissue."
All proceeds from the Donate Life Run/Walk benefit the OneLegacy Foundation, which conducts public education efforts to inspire people to choose donation and funds research to improve outcomes for donors, their families and recipients.
OneLegacy is the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the seven-county greater Los Angeles area. With more than 200 hospitals, 11 transplant centers and a diverse population of 18.6 million, OneLegacy is the largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization in the world.