UC San Diego

Living Donor Helps Bring Transplant Games to San Diego

2022 event celebrating life for organ donors to be held at U.C. San Diego

San Diego has long been a big Olympics town. Now we’re going to host another kind of Games that might be even more inspiring.

From July 29 through August 3 of 2022, U.C. San Diego will host the Donate Life Transplant Games. Much like the Olympics, this event features multiple competitions (20 sporting events) spread over several days. Unlike the international sporting spectacle, every one of the competitors has either received or donated an organ.

San Diego won the bid thanks to a strong push from the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl.

“We’re thrilled that we won the bid to host the Games here in San Diego. It’ll be a good shot in the arm for the tourism industry, certainly,” says Holiday Bowl CEO Mark Neville.

They’re expecting 10,000 to 12,000 people to come to San Diego for the Games, a nice boost for the local tourism industry that’s struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.

“Perhaps even more importantly it’s a great shot in the arm for those who are seeking organ and tissue donations,” says Neville, who is passionate about bringing this event to America’s Finest City.

He actually has the ability to compete in them.

“I donated a kidney last year in March,” says Neville. He had donated bone marrow to a boy 15 years ago but at the time didn’t know who the recipient was. This donation was different.

“It was a friend of mine who I happened to be a match for.”

Tasha Herrera was the Neville family’s babysitter. At the age of 26 she found out her kidneys were failing.

“I didn’t know anything about it until there was a post on Facebook that she was on the transplant waiting list and needed a living donor because doctors told her she probably would not survive the waiting list,” says Neville.

So, Mark went to Houston, where his kidney gave Tasha a new chance at life. Today they’re both healthy and happy.

The Holiday Bowl has been looking for ways to expand its volunteer efforts so in a way the stars just kind of aligned.

“I told her, if it weren’t for you, I don’t know that these Games would be coming to San Diego,” says Neville. “It was one of the best, most meaningful and impactful moments of my life. I wish I could do it again. I know most people who do donate kidneys wish they could do it again. I can’t, but that’s why I really wanted to spread the word that there is a need out there for it.”

The Transplant Life Foundation says there are 110,000 people in the United States waiting for an organ transplant, with 22,000 of them in California. Having the Transplant Games in San Diego will help spread that word and hopefully save as many of those lives as possible.

The event will take several volunteers to put on but that process has not officially started yet. Anyone interested in helping with the Games can email the Holiday Bowl offices at info@holidaybowl.com.

If you’d like more information on becoming a living kidney donor like Mark, visit www.kidneyregistry.org to learn all about the process.

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