SportsEvents Magazine

JAN 2018

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January 2018 48 biannual event has one important objec- tive, according to Gary Green, a team organizer and manager for the World Transplant Games. "The main objective is to show the world that the idea of organ donation and transplant works and it works miracu- lously," said Green, who first became involved working at the National Kidney Foundation. For Ryan, the Transplant Games' mission of supporting the transplant community — transplant recipients, do- nor families, living donors, and industry and healthcare professionals — through awareness and recognition is a personal one. In 1986, his daughter, Michelle, was killed in a car accident. She had regis- tered as an organ donor just weeks before. Though organ donor awareness was high 30 years ago — 84 percent, according to a Gallup poll — only 20 percent of those had registered, so she was part of a small, "not all that mainstream" group, he said. However, nearly 25 years would pass before Ryan would take over the Trans- plant Games from the National Kidney Foundation. As president and COO of RMG Technologies, an event planning and promotion firm that has executed ma- jor sporting contests such as the NCAA Final Four and inaugural competitions such as the State Games of Michigan, Ryan had the professional background and the personal drive. "We know events," Ryan said, "and this cause is near and dear to my heart." How It Works Organ recipients and living donors who are healthy and nine months removed from their transplant or donation are eli- gible to compete at the Transplant Games of America, held in even years, and the World Transplant Games, held in odd years, in competitions in 5K and 10K races, basketball, bowling, golf, racquet- ball, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Though it is an Olympics-inspired competition, Transplant Games orga- nizers take care to make needed modi- fications for athlete safety, according to Green, and even offer other more social events, such as Texas Hold 'Em Poker or a Trivia Challenge, to be inclusive. "We emphasize that we do other things to recipients who may feel like they aren't athletic enough to participate," Green said. "We've included sports where you don't need to be an athlete or an Olympian to compete." Physical activity, when possible, is encouraged, as Green said it demonstrates the ability to live an active life. "The more you take care of the organ and your body, the better success you'll have," Green said. At the World Transplant Games level, this emphasis on fitness has led to the launch of a "Fit For Life!" program, which is intended to encourage this philosophy even among donors who may not compete. The Games in Action Hosting a Transplant Games event re- quires the same expertise and attention to detail as any other competition that might draw around 4,000 to 6,000 registered participants and spectators, and that's why local planning guidance is the key to success. "We love it when a CVB or sports commission gets involved because they know what we need," Green said. "When professionals sit on the other side of the table and translate your event into hotel rooms, that's so helpful to us." But Janis Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, said she had never heard of the Transplant Games until she prepared a bid to host the 2014 competition. After consulting with her local med- ical community and even observing a transplant, Burke realized that hosting the Transplant Games could have a powerful impact on the city. "More than just us hosting an event, we decided we would use this as a platform and we would save lives," Burke said. At the time of Houston's bid to serve as 2014 host, only 12 percent of adults in Texas were listed on the donor registry, t SPORT Report Transplant recipients celebrate Physical activity is encouraged for transplant recipients.

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