2013 Donate Life Run/Walk

5 May

Following is the chronicle of preparing for and participating in the 11th Annual Donate Life Run/Walk – April 27, 2013 – The largest Donate Life event of its kind in the nation 

The Golden Girls - Shirley, Cheryl, Norma, Me, Sharyn

The Golden Girls – Shirley, Cheryl, Norma, Me, Sharyn

Actually, I’m only going to talk about the penultimate and ultimate weeks prior to the Walk, but we had actually been doing tasks since before last Christmas (while we were also doing stuff for the Rose Parade)  When I talk about “we,” I’m referring to the Golden Girls, a small group of ladies who devote many, many hours at the Placentia Donate Life/One Legacy office doing sometimes mundane things like stuffing envelopes and packing and shipping stuff all over the country as well as fun stuff like making buttons for donor families.  All of us have a connection to organ/tissue donation and feel it’s important to help spread the word and educate folks on the importance of registering to be a donor.

Our chores were complicated this year with the expansion and doubling of space in the office.  Expansion was a good thing, but in February and March, we had to be very flexible in working around construction areas, a lot of dust and then putting our work area back together.   Setting up shelves and moving all of our stuff to these new shelves was another challenge.  One of the biggest challenges was remembering where we put everything.  We are still in this mode and will be for another couple of weeks as some more construction will be done to complete the office.  It’ll be great when it’s all done!

During the last 2 weeks prior to the Walk, as a group, we processed about 4500 tee shirts for donor families who had formed teams in honor of their loved ones.

Checking the task board

Checking the task board

 These shirts all had pictures of the loved ones and had to be counted to make sure the families will be receiving the correct number and sizes.  We also made about the same number of buttons and those buttons were placed in the bag with the shirts.  Thousands of Run/Walk brochures were mailed out to DMVs, dialysis centers, hospitals and other entities.  A multitude of tasks had to be done and it seemed as if we didn’t slow down for the entire month of April doing all these  jobs.  I’m not complaining, just trying to explain that we were busy.

Ann, one of the ladies in our office likened preparing for the Walk to planning for a wedding.  You spend months and days on the tiniest of details and then the event finally arrives and t’s over in just a short time and we have to clean up.  In our case, we planned for about 12,000 people to arrive at Cal State Fullerton between 7 AM and 9 AM and it was done about 1 PM.  It’s an amazing event.

Workin' hard

Workin’ hard

The Wednesday before the Walk, Jerri, my sister, and Jolee, my niece, came down from Minden, Nevada, to lend their volunteer hands.  They joined many other folks who came to the office to lend a hand. By the end of the Walk, more than 750 people had volunteered from all walks of life.  Coordinating those volunteers is a tremendous job and very well done by our Ambassador Coordinator Erika.

By Friday afternoon, all activity moved to the intramural field at Cal State Fullerton where a stage had been constructed, many easy ups and other tents type structures had been built.

The field that would hold 12,000 people the next day

The field that would hold 12,000 people the next day

Almost the same view as the empty field.  This was right after the doves had been released.

Almost the same view as the empty field. This was right after the doves had been released.

   Many dignitaries and other VIPs, such as mayors, assemblymen/women, county supervisors, and CEOs attended the Walk.  Celebrities such as Nick Canon and All for 1 entertained the excited crowd.

A couple celebrating 18 years of transplantation!

A couple celebrating 18 years of transplantation!

 My job at the event is to welcome and check in the VIPs before they go into the actual VIP tent to schmooze and to have breakfast and/or lunch.  Then they go out to participate in the dove release and some even do the walk. This picture has the VIP tent and check in area in the background, but the couple in the foreground is the more inspirational story.  The husband donated his kidney to his wife, saving her life, 18 years ago!  Loved their tee shirts!

Jolee, Jerri and I by Bob's sign

Jolee, Jerri and I are by Bob’s sign

A very inspiring and emotional area of the Run/Walk is the Circle of Life Garden.  It is a special place dedicated to honor a donor, recipient or loved one and inspire others to donate life. People, such as me, pay for a sign to be made and it is hung in the garden along with about 165 others.  A team of volunteers decorate it very tastefully and it becomes a sort of sanctuary for folks to wander through to see their loved one’s picture or just be inspired by the garden.  Some folks bring flowers and/or decorations for their signs and many get their pictures taken by their signs.

An interesting story evolved about the garden fro a picture on our brochure.  A mother whose son had been part of the ROTC military guard at our “fallen heroes” area last year saw her son’s picture on the brochure.  She contacted us and wanted to know if it was too late to get her son’s picture in the garden for this year.  Come to find out, he had been killed (not in military duty) last fall and had been a donor.  So this year, he was honored by the ROTC guard.  Quite a story.

ROTC Guard

ROTC Guard

Also on display in the Garden is what we call a ribbon quilt.  For each donor family team that we make buttons for, we make an extra button and pin it on a ribbon that becomes sort of a “quilt.”  Jerri and Jolee put the ribbon quilt together this year and are standing beside their product.  The picture was taken toward the end of the event and several of the buttons are missing due to families taking an additional button.

The ribbon quilt

The ribbon quilt

The Donate Life Run/Walk is the culmination of thousands of hours of preparation by hundreds of people.  I believe it is a comfort to donor families and does inspire many people or at least make them more aware of organ and tissue donation.  We have many families who come back year after year and use our event as a sort of family reunion.  Some have told my boss, Kathleen, that this event is even more important to their families than Christmas.  So, for me, it is a labor of love and is a way for me to pay forward, in some small aspect, Bob’s gift of life that he received from the Baptista family.  For without them and their generosity, we would not have had an extra eight and a half years together.

3 Responses to “2013 Donate Life Run/Walk”

  1. Dick May 5, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Pure Gold! Not only your volunteerism, dedication and cheerful, upbeat outlook to help others, but your way of distilling & conveying such a major event, and the planning thereof, in words and photos for us Buzzard-readers. My, how much your Golden Girls would miss you in the event of an eventual relocation to Minden, but oh, your family members will be so happy to have you and your uplifting spirit closer to them.

  2. janishaag May 6, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Bravo to you and your imported Nevada helpers… as well as all the other amazing folks… who made the run/walk such a success! An amazing activity by so many of your lending your time, talent and love! Congratulations!

  3. Miss Mary May 18, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    Cora, you and your work always inspire me! 🙂

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