Third annual Donate Life 5k is a success

Bree G. Wallace and Shareen Strauss
McCloud’s Amy Bourke, center, along with fellow organ transplant recipients Butch Jones of Montague, left, and Doug Latimer of Redding release balloons into the sky during a ceremony to honor those who have given lifesaving organs during the third annual Donate Life 5k Saturday afternoon.  Photo by Bree G. Wallace

When Amy Bourke began organizing McCloud's third annual Donate Life 5k, she made the goal of getting 100 people signed up. Bourke exceeded her goal Saturday when 106 supporters came out to Hoo Hoo Park to participate.

Since receiving a life saving liver transplant in 2010, Bourke has become an avid supporter of the Donate Life program. She was joined in the Donate Life 5k this year by Redding's Doug Latimer, a fellow liver transplant recipient, and Butch Jones of Montague, a heart transplant recipient. Bourke, Latimer, and Jones all received their donated organs in 2010.

Bourke noted that others in attendance on Saturday had been touched by the Donate Life program.

"There are people here who had a family member who donated an organ, and they walked today to honor and represent them," Bourke said.

Dawn McAnulty of Lake Shastina did not walk due to her failing liver from a rare disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis, but her husband, Dale, 14 year old son Jacob and daughter 11 year old daughter, Jenna, walked to support her. McAnulty will someday need a new liver, though she is not on the donor list yet.

Sandy Richardson from Mount Shasta and her granddaughter, two year old Zoey Avilla walked in memory of Heath Tessmer of Mount Shasta, who passed away last October. Her son, Adrian Villa, who was good friends with Heath, ran in the event and came in first place.

Amber Riddle from Houston, TX came in second place, and third place went to Bourke's daughter, seven year old Morgan.

The walk began in Hoo Hoo Park at 10:30 and followed a loop around town, totaling a distance of 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles. After the walk, the participants sat down to a barbecue lunch sponsored by Hancock Forest Management and Campbell Timberland Management. Crystal Geyser donated water for the event, and Bourke's parents, Dennis and Rita Cain, provided an assortment of fresh fruits.

"Putting this together wouldn't have been possible without all the help from volunteers," Bourke said.

After lunch, the participants all received balloons. These balloons are a tradition of Donate Life events, and are meant to represent those who have donated an organ or had their life saved by one.

With tears in her eyes and a catch in her voice, Bourke expressed her gratitude for those who supported the event. With Latimer and Jones on either side, she acknowledged the organ donor who saved her own life. "Wherever you are," Bourke said, "I am so grateful to you."

Following Bourke's example, the crowd released their blue and green balloons into the sky.

Since the year Bourke first hosted the walk, its has grown from a small, family-and-friends event to a full-out community event. Bourke plans to host the walk again next year. It will again take place on the last Saturday in April, when the Donate Life 5k is hosted in Fullerton.

Bourke is already thinking of ways to grow the event. Currently, participants in the walk/run receive a t-shirt that lists the national sponsors of the Donate Life program. In the future, Bourke hopes to add local sponsors to a list of her own.

To become an organ donor or to learn more about Donate Life, go to