Return Home > Greater than gold: Team Philadelphia finishes strong in San Diego for 2022 Transplant Games

Greater than gold: Team Philadelphia finishes strong in San Diego for 2022 Transplant Games

By Jim Melwert, KYW Newsradio

They picked up about 50 medals, but winning isn’t the most important part for Philly organ transplant community

Updated on August 3, 20227:32 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More than 100 members of the region’s organ transplant community are in San Diego with Team Philadelphia for the Transplant Games.

The Transplant Games are held every two years and bring together organ recipients, living donors, and donor families from all over the country. Events range from track and field and swimming, to corn-hole and ballroom dancing. The games began on Saturday with a parade and a 5k run.

The 100-plus members of the team, organized by Gift of Life Donor Program, range from ages 7 to 74. Team Philadelphia finished the final day of competition on Wednesday with about 50 medals, most of them gold.

One of the big winners is 18-year-old Onyi Kanine, who had a liver transplant in 2005 when she was 10 months old.

“It’s nice to come back to a community who knows exactly what you’ve been through and knows how to support you,” Kanine said. “And we can just all bond over having a second chance at life thanks to our donors, which I find really nice.”

Kanine says she has been going since she was six, in 2010.

“I’m always excited once I get here. I’m excited to bring home some medals for the team and just to add to my collection,” she said

She added several medals this time around, including golds, as she defended her title in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.

She will be off to college in the fall where she said she will be studying biochemistry on the pre-med track. No surprise: She will also be running track.

‘You don’t play to win’

But the Transplant Games are about much more than winning.

Erin Brenner had a liver transplant when she was 10 months old, then a kidney transplant when she was 14 years old. She says she has been to every Transplant Games since 2006 — when she was just 4 years old.

“It really is a great opportunity to meet new people that are like you that understand where you come from,” Brenner said. “You don’t play to win; you play for fun. You play to raise awareness. It’s awesome.”

The best part, she said, is catching up with friends she has made from all over the country.

“We all grew up together. And since it’s every two years, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. We act like we just saw each other yesterday,” Brenner said.

She said she also looks forward to meeting donor families every year.

“It’s truly amazing, because they lost a loved one, which is very sad, but … they helped save other people’s lives, which is very important.”

Among those donor families is Elizabeth Kennedy, whose son David died in a car crash in 1992 and donated tissue to 45 people. Her nephew was killed by a drunk driver in 2015 and donated his organs to save five people’s lives. Her brother-in-law died in 2019 and donated his corneas.

Elizabeth Kennedy.
Elizabeth Kennedy. Photo credit Gift of Life

She says, while her family does not know who received their loved ones’ donations, they get to cheer on other organ and tissue recipients at the Transplant Games.

“They come up to you and say, ‘Thank you,'” said Kennedy. “You’re not their donor family. They’re still thanking you.”

KYW Newsradio Suburban Bureau Chief Jim Melwert is a living kidney donor.

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