The national Olympics-style games are held every other year, according to Tony Hakes, a spokesman for the Iowa Donor Network.
“They are reserved for people that have either had a transplant or been a living donor, so, someone who’s donated a kidney or a partial liver or a partial lung,” Hakes says. “Everyone that’s competing, all the athletes have either had a transplant or been living donors, so they’ve all had this sort of connection through donation.”
The athletes will be competing in a wide range of sports and activities, but Hakes says it’s not really about the competition. “It’s much more about fellowship, about camaraderie, about people that have been through similar situations coming together and really being given the opportunity to do things they might not normally be able to do,” Hakes says, “to have some competition with other people that are just like them that have been through this transplant journey. Of course, it is so much about honoring those who were able to give the gift of life through a transplant.”
The Donate Life Transplant Games are being held in Cleveland this year and in basic ways, mimic the Olympics. “There’s some competition and lots of different traditional events, track and field, swimming, but there’s also a few unique events, ballroom dancing, bocce ball, bags, poker, darts,” Hakes says. “There’s some low-key stuff and some pretty high-key stuff, too.”
The games will open on Friday and run five days, through next Wednesday. The events aim to promote the success of organ transplantation, raise awareness for the urgent need of organ and tissue donation and to honor donors and their families. About 600 Iowans are on the “waiting list” for organs at any given time. Hakes says it’s easy to become a donor, just check “yes” when you renew your driver’s license, or visit the Iowa Donor Network website to register online.