This was a particularly exciting year at the Transplant Games of America. After being canceled in 2020, our team was looking sharp and in top-shape to take on the competition. After all the dust settled, our team sealed a total of 57 medals – including 37 gold medals. An all-time team best! With the Games being held nearby in San Diego, many team members and supporters were able to attend. In addition, 5 families from Phoenix Children’s Hospital joined Transplant Team AZ. You know kids always make things more exciting.

Our two top medal recipients were Irene Marra and Dylan McQueen. Irene won three gold and two silver medals in Bowling and Texas Hold ‘Em. Dylan cleaned up in the track and field competition with six gold and one silver. There were many other team members who won multiple medals in various competitions, including Tennis, Darts, Corn Hole, Pickleball, Table Tennis and Trivia.

Even though we like to focus on the success of our team’s keen competitive spirit, the real celebration is honoring the heroes that gave the gift of life. It is simply inspiring to be in the presence of so many who are honoring loved ones, honoring those they never met and appreciating the precious gift of life. The Games were filled with many special ways to pay tribute.

The Donor Quilts displayed at the Games are mosaics of color and texture that engage not only the eye, but also the hearts of all those who view them. The quilts are dedicated to the memory of donors and donor families. Two of our AZ families added squares to the Donor Quilt in remembrance of their loved ones. The Johnson Family created and added a square for sweet Daisy, our youngest Transplant Team AZ member, who was a heart recipient and passed away in November 2020. Karen Matulis created a new square and added it to the quilt to honor her son, Christopher Jagodzinski, who donated the gift of life when he passed away in 2004.

Another way the Games honors and the extraordinary gift of organ donation is with the Quarter Century Club Dinner. It celebrates those who have been enjoying the gift of life for more than 25 years post transplant. This year, the dinner was held on the historic USS Midway Aircraft Carrier and Museum. Our Team AZ has several members celebrating 25 years plus. One is Ed Ozier who was sporting his Quarter Century Club Jersey that proudly displayed 36 years post transplant.

Pin trading should be listed as a sport. The talent it takes to trade pins from all the attending states and visiting countries is definitely an art form. Evie Strope gets a Gold for Team AZ in this category. She has determination and keen eye for spotting the different teams from afar to garner those coveted pieces of metal. Way to go Evie for gathering them all.

The closing ceremonies proved to be the perfect end to a week of celebrations. The video montage of donors, donor families and team members lost, brought a tear to everyone’s eye. It hit home, why we were all gathered in such a celebratory manner. Not only, to remember those who have been lost, but to honor them and their gift of life by living to the fullest.

A huge thank you goes out to our Team Manager, Ben Willson, who for the past year has kept us in check with registration, team pairings, travel and calculating volunteer hours. Thank you Ben for keeping us on track. In the midst of all his hard work, Ben managed to earn 1 gold and 2 silver medals in San Diego. After such a great week, what’s next? Some of our team members will be participating in the 23rd World Transplant Games in Perth, Australia on April 15-21, 2023. We will be sure to announce all the details of who is competing so you can cheer them on from afar.