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U.S. Transplant Games Open Today

Inspiration will abound this weekend at the 2010 National Kidney Foundation's U.S. Transplant Games, which get underway today in Madison, Wis. More than 7,500 people - including athletes who have received life-saving kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow transplants and their families, plus friends and families of organ donors - are expected for the six-day biennial event. This year, athletes ranging in age from 2 to 85 will compete in 12 sports, including track and field, swimming, tennis, basketball, cycling and golf.

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"More than 100,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants, and 18 people die each day while waiting," says John Davis, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation. "The Transplant Games visually showcase the success of transplantation, demonstrating the life-saving power of organ donation. We hope our spirited competition will slam home the message that every American should consider becoming an organ donor.

Among this year's competitors is Philadelphia's Mike Snyder, an eight-year-old multiple-sport athlete who already has received two kidney transplants, and double-lung transplant survivor Dottie Lessard, a 42-year-old track-and-field participant from Bradford, Mass. Over the years, many athletes have shown their appreciation for their donors during the Games, as images of a male swimmer with "Thanks, Sis" painted on his chest and a shot-putter sporting a large "Gift of Life" tattoo with his name and the name of his donor attest.

In addition to athletic competition, the Games (now in their 20th year) will feature special ceremonies honoring living organ donors and families of deceased organ donors, as well as workshops for donor families and an educational program for professionals involved in transplantation. "It's a celebration of their second chance at life," Cindy Huber, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin, told the Wisconsin State Journal. "It's also a tribute to the donors who make it possible."

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