Flag-signing event launches Transplant Games of America

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Annual event celebrates organ and tissue recipients, donors and donor families

Livonia, MI – The Donate Life Transplant Games of America will be virtual again this year, but the fellowship participants feel continues to make this event very special. Mike Roman, co-captain of Team Michigan, signs the flag at a Transplant Games of America kick off event.

About 50 organ and tissue transplant recipients, their family members and volunteers gathered together on a hot Sunday afternoon to officially launch the 2021 Transplant Games of America, which include a number of virtual and self-led activities and culminate in July. Although organized competitions are few and far between due to the lingering effects of Covid-19, the kick-off events are all about sharing the transplant journey and celebrating recipients, donors and donor families alike.

“It’s definitely about the camaraderie,” said Kristen Mutrynowski, whose father, Ralph donated a kidney to her three years ago. “It’s good to get out and see everyone in person.”

Team Michigan has two flag-signing kick off events, according to Marge Del Greco, a two-time liver transplant recipient and member of the Team Michigan Planning Committee. Each event honors donors and donor families, provides an opportunity for transplant recipients to share stories, and features a short parade and ceremonial passing of the torch. Normally, these ceremonies would take place during the in-person event, but the Transplant Games were cancelled last year and pushed into the virtual realm this year due to Covid-19.

“It’s all about keeping people engaged,” said Del Greco, 66. “We are trying to keep it fun.”

Next year, the Transplant Games of America are tentatively planned to return in-person and take place in San Diego, CA.

Mike Roman (above, right), a 64-year-old Berkley resident who received a donated heart in 2009 and a cornea transplant in 2019, has previously competed in the Transplant Games in person He will take part virtually this year and plans to travel to San Diego next year, too. He said he enjoys being around other people who share a transplant journey.

“Everyone has a story,” said Roman, a co-caption of Team Michigan. “Everybody is happy – there are no attitudes. It’s just a great group of people, the finest, most grateful people you’ll ever meet.”

Team Michigan celebrated the start of the Transplant Games of America. The Games will include an official opening ceremony, donor tributes and living donor ceremonies produced and broadcast from July 17-19 via Zoom. In the meantime, flag-signing events are taking place across the country. Individual participants can sign up for activities that vary from bowling to golf, track, swimming and more, then snap a picture and upload their time or score to the Transplant Games of America website. Medals will be distributed in July, too.

The Transplant Games of America have taken place for 30 years and have helped raise awareness for the need for additional organ and tissue donors across the country. There are about 110,000 people waiting for a new organ in the U.S., including about 2,500 in Michigan.

Although the Transplant Games are taking place in hometowns across America this year, participants are looking forward to a time when they can gather to celebrate and compete together.

“When you go once, you definitely want to go again,” said Roman.

Team Michigan celebrated the start of the Transplant Games of America.

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