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Gift of Life Hosted Annual LIFE Walk/Run on Belle Isle

Hartley, the Gift of Life Michigan mascot, gives a high five to a member of Bobby's Rockers at the finish line at LIFE Walk/Run 2023.

Gift of Life MOTTEP hosted its 26th annual LIFEWalk/Run event on July 22 on Belle Isle in Detroit. The event included a 5K walk and run, and a 10K run. The theme for the event was “Putting our Heart in Every Step.” Gift of Life was focused on being a health resource in the heart of the community, as well as promoting the message of getting a heart on your driver’s license as a registered organ donor. 

“This is about celebrating transformed lives,” said Remonia Chapman, director of Public Education and Community Relations for Gift of Life Michigan and director of the Detroit MOTTEP Foundation. 

Benjamin McClendon's parents listen to his transplanted heart beat at LIFEWalk 2023Three-year-old Benjamin McClendon received an award for being the youngest transplant recipient at the event – and one of Michigan’s youngest organ transplant recipients. “Big Ben,” as the staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan call him, was only a few months old when he received a new heart three years ago. On Saturday Benjamin’s parents borrowed a stethoscope and listened to his new heart beating strongly in his chest.

“We’re happy to support organizations like Gift of Life MOTTEP, which is doing fantastic work in the community,” said Mark Pepper, president & CEO of Michigan Humane (a partner for this year’s event). “The word ‘humane’ can extend itself into the lives of people. It’s not limited to animals.  We both honor life in all ways.”

Dorrie Dils, president and CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, agreed. “Gift of Life’s mission is to honor life through donation, which means to honor all life, to be inclusive of all, and to compassionately support one another,” she said.

The walk/run also kicks off National Minority Donor Awareness Month in August, which highlights the need for organ and tissue donors in multicultural populations. More than half the men, women and children waiting for a life-saving organ transplant are people of color. Yet traditionally, people in multicultural communities are less likely to sign up as donors.

Run Detroit members wearing their runner medals at the finish line at LIFE Walk/Run 2023Partnering organizations included: Henry Ford Health System, Michigan Medicine, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, and Ascension Health. Each is helping promote the message of organ and tissue donation, along with health and wellness. Other partners were Michigan Humane, Canine to Five,  Ainsley’s Angels and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

In Michigan, about 2,400 people are waiting for a new organ; of those about half are of African American, Latinx or Arab American descent.

More than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S. and more than 60% represent racial and ethnic minorities. 

Dils said that this fact is another reminder for everyone to “Check Your Heart.”

“We’re asking everyone to pull out their license or state ID and look for the donor heart in the corner. If you’ve already done so, we thank you,” she said. “If you have not, we’re asking you to look inside yourself, to Check Your Heart and sign up. There’s no reason why anyone today needs to wait for a life-saving organ transplant.”

5K and 10K race results are now posted.

For more information on LIFE Walk, visit detroitmottepfoundation.org.

To add your name to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry visit golm.org/register.

A woman squats to admire a photo in the Circle of Life Garden at LIFE Walk/Run 2023 Team Faithful at LIFE Walk/Run 2023

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