Amy Bourke's 5k is 'all about celebrating life'

Skye Kinkade
Since her lifesaving liver transplant in 2010, McCloud's Amy Bourke has become a tireless advocate for Donate Life. On April 27, she'll host the third annual Donate Life 5k in McCloud, modeled after the national event that will take place in Fullerton on the same day. Contributed photo

What began as a way for McCloud's Amy Bourke to participate in the national Donate Life 5k without traveling to Fullerton two years ago has blossomed into an annual community event.

The third Donate Life Run/Walk will take place Saturday, April 27, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Hoo Hoo Park in McCloud. Those who register to be part of the team "Amy's Angels" by April 12 will receive a Donate Life t-shirt and a goodie bag in addition to a complimentary barbecue lunch, said Bourke, who hopes this year's attendance will top 100.

"Donate Life is one of the most important things to me," said Bourke, a 36 year-old lifelong McCloud resident and mother of two who underwent a life-saving liver transplant in June, 2010. "Anything I can do to raise awareness and money for the organization, I'll do."

In 2011, Bourke decided to participate in the national 5k from afar with a few family and friends by walking around McCloud. About 20 people ended up walking with her and they raised nearly $1,000 in registration fees and donations.

In 2012, Bourke began advertising her event a little more and attendance doubled.

This year, Bourke said the event will be bigger and better and will include music from Geeia Dexter's Wildwoman Sounds.

Following the walk, a barbecue lunch will be sponsored by Hancock Forest Management and Campbell Timber Management and the event will again include a balloon release in remembrance of those who donated their organs so others could live.

Though Bourke encourages early registration for organizational purposes (it costs $25 to participate) people can also register the morning of the race, though they won't receive a t-shirt or goodie bag.

Bourke describes the event as family friendly and non-competitive.

"It's fun to get together with family and friends and just walk. There's no timing... it's all about celebrating life," Bourke said.

According to Kathleen Hostert, the founder/organizer of the Donate Life 5k Fullerton (and kidney donor to her husband Craig in 1998), "The proceeds from the event will go toward educating and inspiring the community to sign up as organ and tissue donors and allow us to further our message by investing in high school outreach, DMV outreach, public display campaigns and radio advertising which has shown to increase donation."

Since her recovery Bourke she has dedicated herself as an advocate of organ donation, working to raise awareness of the need for organ and tissue donations and raising funds to support the national Donate Life registry.

She is now the local Donate Life ambassador at the Mount Shasta DMV as well as the afterschool program coordinator at McCloud Elementary School and president of the MES PTO.

Bourke's story

In May 2010, Bourke began to feel ill, though blood tests and a CT scan revealed nothing amiss.

In early June, Bourke woke up "a horrible yellow color" and too weak to get out of bed. She was taken to the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta, and later flown to UC San Francisco, where she was admitted to the ICU.

Bourke was diagnosed with acute fulminant liver failure, which has no known cause and no cure except a transplant.

On June 12, 2010, Bourke slipped into a coma and was put at the top of the national list to receive a liver. A day later, an organ became available. Bourke had surgery on June 14, and woke up three days later.

Today, Bourke said she feels "amazing," though has blood work done monthly.

The liver Bourke received was from a 51 year-old man who died from a closed head trauma. She doesn't know who he is or where he lived, but Bourke has written to his family and hopes to one day hear back from them.

"I just want them to know how grateful I am, how much I appreciate their gift," Bourke said. "I want them to understand that I'm not letting it go to waste... If that person hadn't signed up to be an organ donor, I wouldn't be here today. Every day is not promised so I live and love every single day and make the best out of the things I can."

5k registration

To register for team "Amy's Angels" online, follow this link to the event's Facebook page.

Hard copy registration forms can be found at Hancock Forest Management and the McCloud Beauty Shop, or by calling Bourke at (530) 964-2605.