FULLERTON, Calif. - The 12th Annual Donate Life Run/Walk celebrated the gift of life through organ, eye, and tissue donation with more than 12,000 people and more than 250 teams on Saturday, April 26, at Cal State Fullerton. The event is the largest of its kind in the nation and occurs in concert with National Donate Life Month, which was being celebrated with cities and hospital events in coordination with OneLegacy, the organ recovery agency that serves the greater Los Angeles area.
Joining founders Kathleen and Craig Hostert were joined by a variety of media and entertainment celebrities, including Kree Harrison, American Idol finalist; Kari Steel, KOST 103.5 radio host and mid-day host; Ysaac Alvarez, K-LOVE 107.5 Radio host; Ann Lopez, who donated a kidney to comedian George Lopez; and Phillip Palmer, KABC-TV anchor, who donated his kidney to a longtime friend. In addition to special guests, 42 Southern California Hospitals formed teams to show their support in the community for those awaiting a lifesaving transplant.
“We are so proud that this event continues to draw from all corners of Southern California and even beyond our state, and we are so appreciative of the busy celebrities who share their talents with us,” said Kathleen and Craig Hostert, event founders. “We started the Donate Life Run/Walk after Craig’s first kidney transplant as a community vehicle that would inspire as many people as possible to commit to being donors. Since that time, we have seen the California state donor registry become a reality with today showing 11 million registered donors. It’s gratifying to witness the change that donation has made in our community, our lives, and most of all in our families.”
Donation is very personal for the Hosterts, who faced Craig’s first time on dialysis more than 14 years ago. Kathleen donated her kidney to him, and in 2012 their 23-year-old son Justin, now a graduate assistant athletic trainer at Cal State Fullerton, donated his kidney when the need emerged again.
“It was never a question in my mind as to whether or not I would donate a kidney to my Dad,” explained Justin, now 25. “We had been watching my Dad’s lab results over the course of a couple years and had started to see the results fluctuating. As soon as the doctor told us that my Dad was experiencing kidney failure again, I asked what we needed to do in order to find out if I would be able to donate my kidney. A couple months later I found out I was a match, and two months after that we had the surgeries to complete the donation.”
An important feature of the event is the Circle of Life Garden, which featured 165 signs honoring donors, recipients, and loved ones. The Garden provided a special place where families of donors could gather to celebrate their loved ones.
“This was my second year coming to the event as a donor and there is definitely a difference from previous years when I would just come to the event to support my parents,” said Justin. “Now I feel a greater connection to the event and the cause because I’m also a donor. It’s a great event that allows donors, recipients, family and friends to remember and support one another, and there have even been families of donors that have past and the recipients of their organs that have had the opportunity to meet for the first time at the run/walk.”
The Donate Life Run/Walk featured a variety of entertainment, recreation, food, and shopping in a festival atmosphere with more than 80 exhibitors, including the Discovery Science Center Bubble Fest Exhibit. The presenting sponsor was Moss Adams, LLP, the 11th largest accounting and consulting firm in the U.S., which has a multi-year commitment to the event. Returning sponsors included W.L. Butler Construction in Irvine; Vons Stores; OneLegacy and St. Joseph Hospital of Orange.
Elected officials and businesses from cities across the Southland participated in the event. More than 120 cities have proclaimed April as DMV/National Donate Life in answer to the organizers’ “Mayor-athon” challenge. Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva (Fullerton area), and officials from Baldwin Park, Cypress, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Rialto, Villa Park, Westminster, and Yorba Linda all attended the event along with County Supervisor Shawn Nelson. Darrin Greenlee, CEO of Southern California Blood Services Region, also attended.
“The Donate Life Run/Walk is a fitting culmination to a month of activities across the seven counties of Southern California,” stated Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy. “Our Ambassadors and local hospitals have helped OneLegacy share the life-saving and legacy-creating value of donation by raising the Donate Life flag, joining leaders in issuing Donate Life Month proclamations, and helping our neighbors to sign up to be donors. In California, we have more than 22,000 people waiting for the gift of life among the more than 122,000 on the national waiting list; YOU can save a life, register at the DMV or www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org.”