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July 27, 2006
PITTSBURGH, July 27 – They haven’t hit the court or track yet and already this group of athletes has performed death-defying feats. They all carry an inner trophy – a new organ that qualifies them for the dream team in the game of life. Their ultimate trial will kick off in Pittsburgh, the site selected for the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games, the National Kidney Foundation announced today.
The Games, to be held July 11-16, 2008, are an Olympic-style event for athletes who have received life-saving organ transplants of every type – kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow. Transplant athletes will compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in 12 different sports, including track and field, swimming, tennis, basketball, cycling and golf. Presented biennially by the National Kidney Foundation since 1990, the U.S. Transplant Games draw participants from all over the country who are organized into 50 state teams.
Both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), home of the world-renowned Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, will serve as the host facility, in partnership with Visit Pittsburgh and the National Kidney Foundation of the Alleghenies.
“More than 90,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants and 17 people die each day while waiting. The Transplant Games visually showcase the success of transplantation, demonstrating the life-saving power of organ donation,” says John Davis, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation.
“I can think of no better place to hold the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games than the campus that is home to the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC and Pittsburgh’s transplant pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, who is widely known as the “father of transplantation,” said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “Dr. Starzl led the team of surgeons who performed the City’s first liver transplant in 1981, and has been a major figure in transforming this region into one of the world’s leading transplant centers. Indeed, it is fitting that Pitt and UPMC will serve as facility hosts. We welcome the Games and inspiring athletes to our campus and City,” added Chancellor Nordenberg.
According to VisitPittsburgh, conservative estimates for the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games indicate that the 7,000 registered attendees will leave behind an anticipated $7.5 million in direct spending.
“The city’s reputation as a strong transplant community was instrumental in successfully bringing the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games to Pittsburgh,” noted Joseph McGrath, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh. In addition, Mr. McGrath noted that high quality venues – including the Petersen Events Center where most of the activities will take place – were essential in bringing the event to Pittsburgh.
“This important event continues to showcase Pittsburgh as a potential site for medical-related events and conferences. Furthermore, it enhances future opportunities to bring even more sports-related events to the city,” said Mr. McGrath, noting that the initial attempts to bring the Transplant Games to Pittsburgh began in May 2004. Since VisitPittsburgh debuted its sports marketing initiative last year, the organization has successfully booked numerous sports-related groups, including the Transplant Games.
Attendance at the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games is expected to exceed 7,000 people, including transplant athletes, their families and friends and families of organ donors. Athlete participants range in age from two to 85. In addition to athletic competition, the Games will feature special ceremonies honoring living organ donors and families of deceased organ donors.
“In all my experiences as a transplant surgeon, nothing amazes me more than the human spirit, guided by sheer will to succeed. For many of these athletes, this is their ultimate achievement, knowing that their bodies have healed enough to compete in an elite athletic competition. I look at them with pride and admiration,” said Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D. Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery, and director emeritus of the Starzl Transplantation Institute.
“On behalf of UPMC I extend a warm welcome to all transplant athletes to Pittsburgh, known as the “transplant capital of the world,” said John Innocenti, Chief Operating Officer of UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside. “As western Pennsylvania’s leading health care provider, we share the passion, vision and commitment of these Games along with the National Kidney Foundation and look forward to hosting transplant athletes from all over the United States,” added Mr. Innocenti.
“Here in western Pennsylvania, more than 1,800 patients currently are waiting for some type of solid organ transplant,” said Susan Stuart, CEO of the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE). Our mission has always been to educate others through positive educational programs and I can think of no better venue than these Games to highlight the importance of organ donation and the miracle of transplantation,” added Stuart.
“Bringing the U.S. Transplant Games to Pittsburgh has been a goal of ours for some time,” noted Deborah Hartman, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of the Alleghenies (formerly NKF of Western PA). While most people in this country support organ donation, many neglect to share their wishes with their family members. Our hope is that the Games will provide a platform to encourage open dialogue about this sensitive topic and promote an increase in the number of people who sign organ donor cards and include their families in their decision process.”
For more information on the U.S. Transplant Games, contact the National Kidney Foundation at (800)622-9010 or visit www.transplantgames.org