By JAMIE LAMPROS
OGDEN — Last year, Hayden Cullimore attended the annual Dash for Donations 5K in a wheelchair.
This year, the 9-year-old liver transplant recipient ran full speed to the finish line.
“This is the first race I am going to run since my transplant,” Hayden said before the event Saturday. “I wanted to run this year to show my family how strong I am now. I’m also running in honor of my donor and their family to tell them thank you.”
Hayden, who suffered with biliary atresia, received a donor liver last summer. Hayden, along with dozens of other participants, walked or ran in honor of the people whose lives have been affected by organ donation.
The event, sponsored by Intermountain Donor Services, raises both money to support education efforts and to maintain Utah’s Celebration of Life Monument, said Alex McDonald, director of public education and public relations for Intermountain Donor Services.
While people can register individually, most created teams in honor of a loved one who gave the gift of life or to celebrate the life of a recipient.
Ten-year-old Evan Kraaima, who received a new liver four months ago, also participated in the race, crossing the finish line with more energy than he’s had in years.
Alex Douthett was 2 months old when he received a heart transplant that saved his life. Now 19, he said he is very grateful to be alive.
Steve Bird, who formed a team in honor of his donor, shared how a liver transplant saved his life nearly 11 years ago.
Nationally, there are over 123,000 people waiting for a life-saving transplant, said Dixie Madsen, public education coordinator for Intermountain Donor Services. In Utah, and nationwide, the number continues to grow.
Hayden said he’s thankful to have received a new liver so he can continue to live a happy and productive life.
“I feel so much better and I’m not tired and sick like I always used to be,” he said. “Organ donation means that someone chose to give their liver to me so I can stay alive and live my life like a normal kid. I hope that everyone will be an organ donor and want to save lots of other kids like me.”
For more information regarding organ, cornea and tissue donation, or to register on the Yes Utah Donor Registry, log on to www.yesutah.org.