2014 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Alan Petelinsek

Alan found inspiration for organ donation while working in Iraq.We never know where we might find inspiration. For Alan Petelinsek, it was a chance meeting on the other side of the world that gave him inspiration to become a tireless advocate for organ donation.


Alan was already a committed athlete and president of Power Test, a successful and benevolent company that supports many causes. Alan was at a military base in Iraq for a business trip, out for his morning run as he continued his training for Ironman, when his life changed.


"We were heavily shelled one morning and one of the Americans I was working with confided in me that he was in Iraq to escape his own personal demons," said Alan. "The man went on to explain that he had lost his teenage son in an accident. He told me that just a few weeks before the accident his son had made the decision to become an organ donor and changed his driver's license to reflect that decision. His son gave the gift of life and hope to others through the donation of his organs and tissue."


When Alan returned to the United States, that experience had a profound effect on him, and it became the inspiration for his Ironman training and the motivation behind Alan's deeply-rooted commitment to support organ donation. During this time, Alan met Rob Verhelst, a fireman, EMT and donation volunteer who was training for the Madison Ironman - but with a challenging twist.


Rob wanted to complete the marathon run wearing 50 pounds of firefighter gear. The two athletes decided to create Destination Donation, a group of athletes who are committed to raising awareness for organ, tissue and eye donation. Athletes of any ability who sign up for Destination Donation become visible ambassadors for organ donation by wearing Destination Donation gear when training or participating in sports.


Beyond the work he does to build and support Destination Donation, Alan continues to make ripples across the transplant community. He and his wife, Lisa, trained for a 30-mile, off-road hike to support cystic fibrosis. Alan carried a 37 pound backpack to represent the 37-year life expectancy for a person with cystic fibrosis.


"The blisters on my shoulders, and the pain in my back and legs, were nothing compared to what these patients endure," said Alan.


Members of Destination Donation also work as volunteers at many events, including staffing an aid station at Ironman. They use every opportunity to educate people about organ, tissue and eye donation. In addition, if you ever see a very tall Dottie the Donor Dot mascot running in a 5k race, say hello to Alan, who especially enjoys keeping Dottie active.


"When I returned from Iraq," Alan said, "I wrote the American I met there to let him know how he had inspired me. It was a mission I had been selected for, and I haven't looked back."