The Grand Traverse Insider | KATIE BEDARD-GOYTOWSKIPhoto: Transplant Games athlete Holly Werlein shows off her medals with the brother and cousin of her liver donor. Several of her donor's family members came to see her compete last week. In all 2,000 people came for the Games, and 1,500 of those were recipient athletes and living donors. Photo Special to the Insider
Werlein helps organize inaugural Transplant Games of America
GRAND RAPIDS – The first-ever Transplant Games of America were a rousing success last weekend. The Games, held in Grand Rapids, were born out of the former U.S. Transplant Games, which last year were suspended by the National Kidney Foundation due to economic issues.
“They turned out amazing,” said Holly Werlein, a local transplant recipient, athlete and member of the Grand Rapids Local Organizing Committee, who, along with Transplant Games of America founder TJ Maciak and the nonprofit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC), organized the event in less than a year.
“We only had 11 months to plan these games; it’s unbelievable we were able to save them,” she said. “It shows what an awesome group of people stepped up to make them possible.”
Werlein especially credits the WMSC and games chairman/donor dad Bill Ryan, as well as “all of the amazing and dedicated volunteers” for the Games’ success.