Spreading the word about organ donation

Gene Eagle
It was an emotional moment for liver recipients Doug Latimer of Redding, left, and Amy Cain Bourke of McCloud, who released balloons in honor of their donors following Saturday morning’s Donate Life Run/Walk fundraiser in McCloud. More than 40 supporters participated.

Green and blue balloons, representing the official colors of April’s National Donate Life Month, floated skyward above Hoo Hoo Park following Saturday morning’s first Donate Life Run/Walk in McCloud. The balloons were released by supporters who had registered and made the 5K walk around McCloud to raise awareness for the need of California organ and tissue donors.

Organizer Amy Cain Bourke said more than 40 friends and family members participated in the 3.2 mile event, raising $840 in registration fees and $100 in donations for the California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry.

Bourke, a mother of two young daughters, has been a staunch supporter and activist in raising awareness for the need of organ and tissue donors since she suffered a life-threatening liver failure last June and received a liver transplant in San Francisco.

“I was excited a while back when I saw on Facebook about the annual Donate Life Walk/Run event in Fullerton, California,” said Bourke. “They have a Run/Walk there every year.”

“It’s being done the last weekend in April, in conjunction with National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month,” she added.

Bourke said she knew she wasn’t up to the long drive so she contacted the walk coordinators and “asked if I got a couple of friends together could we walk here in McCloud and pay the $20 registration fees, and they said that would be wonderful.

“It was pretty incredible. It just grew from thinking it would be me and a couple of my friends to over 40 supporters.”

Bourke said she was tired after the walk and “honored to be able to do the walk/run here. I am thankful they were supportive of letting me have it here. I am honored for everyone that came out with me. Everyone tells me how amazing I am, but I truly think the people that were with me Saturday were the amazing ones. This is the response you get when you live in a small community."

Bourke said her husband Jarrod and parents Rita and Dennis Cain were three of her biggest supporters.

In a telephone interview, public relations director and spokesperson for the Fullerton Celebration, Paula Valle, said Amy came up with her own plan in organizing a run/walk in the community “because the 13 to 14 hour drive was not do-able now.”

Valle said the Donate Run/Walk was started about nine years ago by Kathleen and Craig Hostert of Fullerton.

“Kathleen, formerly an elementary school teacher, actually gave her husband a kidney.”

She said the couple started the run/walk to raise awareness about organ and tissue donations throughout California and to encourage people to register to become organ and tissue donors.

“The event at Cal State Fullerton is the largest event of its kind in the nation,” Valle said.

“I am very proud of Amy,” said her husband. “I think she is doing wonderful things.”

“I just found out about the walk about mid-week,” said McCloud resident Liz Steel. “It was a great thing to do, and it was a lovely day for it. I enjoyed the walk and had a great time.”

She  added, “But it was a little tough. I hadn’t exercised in a while.”

“Amy and I have something very much in common,” said event participant Doug Latimer of Redding, a 67 year old retired Shasta County employee. “My wife and I felt the need to come up and support her and walk in her fundraiser. I received my new liver transplant at the University of Washington in Seattle on April 25, 2010. I too was a non-drinker and had not been ill. It just came from out of the blue.”

Another organ recipient, Dannielle Smith of Redding, also joined the walk. An account manager for Blood Source who runs the blood drives in McCloud, Smith received a kidney from a living donor five years ago.

Following the walk, Hancock Forest Management employees held a reception at the new Pavillion in Hoo Hoo Park, providing supporters with sandwiches, chips and cold drinks.  

According to the Donate Life California Donor Registry, right now 21,000 Californians wait for an organ transplant and the list continues to grow. Each year the number of Americans needing life-saving  donations has far outstripped the number of available donors. As a result people lose their lives each day while waiting.

We needn’t have to looked any further than here in McCloud to see three beautiful people who would not have been there Saturday had it not been for organ donors.

To find out more about donating and how you can register, visit donatelifecalifornia.org.

Donate Life Run/Walk supporters pause for a group photo before their 5K walk in McCloud to raise awareness of the need for California Organ and Tissue donors. The McCloud fundraising walk was made the same day as the Donate Life Run/Walk in Fullerton. Ten youngsters participated in the local walk. Liver transplant recipient and organizer of McCloud's first Donate Life Run/Walk, Amy Cain Bourke (dark gray sweater in front row) is seated with Doug Latimer of Redding on her left. Latimer is a liver transplant recipient as is Dannielle Smith, also of Redding. Smith received a kidney from a live donor.