Madison Home to 2010 National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games
"They don't even come close to this," says Schwab, the former coach who received a double lung transplant at UW Hospital and Clinics in 2004. "The Transplant Games is the most rewarding thing I've ever been involved with."
After his transplant, Schwab accepted a position as an outreach coordinator with the UW Hospital Organ Procurement Organization, and for the past two years he has been an instrumental member of the organizing committee that convinced the National Kidney Foundation that Madison is the right place for the 2010 National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games™.
The Games, to be held July 30-August 4 of that year, are an Olympics-style event for athletes who have received life-saving organ transplants. Participants compete in a wide range of athletic endeavors - from basketball to bowling, from golf to swimming - and in doing so, support the Games' threefold mission of demonstrating the success of transplantation, honoring donors who have given the gift of life and calling attention to the need for more organ donors. In addition, ceremonies and workshops are held to honor donor families and living donors.
More than 8,000 people, including transplant recipient competitors, donor families and living donors, are expected to attend the Games. The public is invited to attend the events, which will be kicked-off with a 5K race/walk.
As senior vice president of programs for the National Kidney Foundation, Gigi Politoski had an influential hand in reviewing the applications of the cities vying for the Games. She said Madison's history of transplant excellence and reputed civic involvement clinched her decision.
"Madison has a wonderful reputation as a transplant center. It's been leading the country in a lot of different areas of transplantation," she said. "But we also want a community that is going to embrace the event. The city has to want it."
Krista Flanagan, who is Event Manager and Co-Chair of the local organizing committee with Schwab, pointed to the city's rabid support of its annual Ironman Triathlon as evidence of potential enthusiasm for the Transplant Games.
"We knew this community really gets involved in athletic events," she said. "If you look at something like the Ironman, the community really gets out and supports that."
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz agreed, saying events like the Transplant Games "really transform the whole downtown. This is something we really should be proud of."
But Cieslewicz had another reason for wanting the Transplant Games to happen in Madison. A member of his staff, Ray Harmon, is a transplant recipient.
"I'm going to tell Ray he has a year to get in shape and represent the mayor's office," Cieslewicz said, and added with a smile, "And he better do well."
Date Published: 08/12/2009