Marathon relay team raises awareness for organ, tissue donation

Marathon relay team members (from left to right): Trish Thompson, Dawn Bissonette, Team Captain Chris Chiarello of Shelburne, Dr. Antonio Di Carlo of Shelburne, and Bella Carter.

From the runners to the volunteers to the crowds cheering on the sidelines at the 24th annual KeyBank Vermont City Marathon, we all share the same desire to cross the finish line, now and in the future. Thanks to a few inspired and dedicated individuals, one team is helping create awareness for organ and tissue donation at the relay one stride at a time.
The relay team, aptly named “Spare Parts,” includes Michelle Pierce, a living kidney donor; Dawn Bissonette, a kidney recipient; Bella Carter, a donor family member; Trish Thompson, a liver recipient; and Dr. Antonio Di Carlo, Chief Transplant Surgeon at Fletcher Allen Hospital.
The team has bonded together because of organ donation, the cause that has touched each and every one of their lives and empowered them to run in the name of this great cause. The living donors on the team are heroes, who have given a part of themselves to give life to others. Organ recipients on the team have overcome heath challenges and are participating in the relay to show the impact of donation and transplantation on one’s life. The team will be donning “Donate Life Vermont” t-shirts, and will have a table in the lobby at the expo before the race. They are encouraging anyone to stop at their table where they will be providing information about organ donation.
“We want to help create awareness and promote an important issue at this community event, one in which Vermont has made great progress in recently,” said Di Carlo, Medical Director of Transplant Services at Fletcher Allen. “Hopefully, we can inspire some of the attendees and runners to make a decision that could positively impact someone’s life in the future, or provide more information about organ and tissue donation that some may not be aware of.”
“We all have this common bond, organ donation, and we are able to get together and support it at this great event,” said Chris Chiarello, a pancreas and kidney recipient and also Spare Parts team captain. “Thanks to someone else’s decision, we are all here and thankful to be able to live active lives and help spread the word about someone else’s courageous decision. We try and make the most out of the gift we were given. Some of us were in bad health before our transplants and today we are running this marathon to show our appreciation for that gift. I received my transplants 20 years ago, and Dawn received a kidney from her sister 38 years ago. We feel being a part of this event and leading active lives helps honor our donors and their families.”
Currently, there are over 114,000 awaiting a life saving transplant in the nation. The relay team expects to help increase awareness and register people at the event to spread hope to those in need.
You can help spread hope by stopping by to the Donate Life Vermont “Spare Parts” relay team table, or by joining the official state organ and tissue donor registry at www.DonateLifeVT.org.

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