**Press release produced by 1visionpr on behalf of TSUK**
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency and Chair of the local organising committee for the games welcomed the celebration and launch of the Westfield Health British Transplant Games at Stormont Buildings, Tuesday 24 May.
The British Transplant Games will take place in Belfast from 4–7 August 2011. The games are a great way to celebrate the ‘Gift of life’ and provide an excellent opportunity to promote the NHS Organ Donation Register and encourage everyone in Northern Ireland to sign up.
Dr Eddie Rooney, who is also Chair of the Northern Ireland Organ Donation Task Force Implementation Group, said:
“The Westfield Health British Transplant Games offer a tremendous opportunity to highlight the importance of organ donation and the need for more people in Northern Ireland to sign onto the organ donor register.
“People are really responding to the message that organ donation is a vital issue and we hope to build on the work that is already in place and get more people signed up.
“The games are a great opportunity to raise awareness of organ donation and I look forward to welcoming athletes from all over the United Kingdom to Belfast in August.”
Jo-Anne Dobson, MLA, hosted the event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, which attracted a number of local dignitaries, businesses and people who had been affected by transplant, all coming together to show their support for the event and for the incredible athletes who will be taking part.
Commenting, the Banbridge-born MLA, whose son Mark has undergone a kidney transplant, said “Mark is one of the fortunate ones, and as the mother of a transplant patient, his story is one which I never tire of telling. When you have an up-close-and-personal encounter with how transplants can really save lives, you can't help but support worthy initiatives such as this. I am thrilled that in hosting my first event as a newly elected MLA, I am able to promote an issue which is very close to my heart.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that the British Transplant Games are coming to Belfast in August and am confident that they will propel the issue of organ donation into the media spotlight, resulting in a significant increase in the number of people signing the organ donor register.”
The Westfield Health British Transplant Games come to Belfast from the 4–7 August 2011 and are the flagship event of Transplant Sport UK, a charity dedicated to raising awareness of the desperate need for organ donation and to encourage those who have received a transplant to lead active and healthy lives.
Orla Smyth is one such athlete who this year became the face of the Deep River Rock Belfast City Marathon for Transplant Sport UK. Orla is the recipient of a kidney and impressed everyone by completing her first marathon in just under 4 hours.
“After my transplant I had no idea I would ever be able to complete a marathon or even want to, but when I discovered that TSUK were the nominated charity I had to try. Training was hard, but I can safely say I have never been as proud as when I crossed the finish line – I hope I can inspire other transplant athletes to become more physically active. I know a marathon isn't for everyone, but staying fit and healthy is so important, it really is amazing what you can achieve!”
Around 800 athletes, aged just 2 to 82, from across the UK will take part in the 18 different sporting activities throughout the four day event and will bring with them around 1,200 supporters. Activities from archery and swimming to golf and volleyball will all be showcased during the games and the competition will undoubtedly be fierce!
One of the main events in the calender will be the Belfast Telegraph Donor Run, which is open to everyone. Runners can raise money for TSUK and show their support for the athletes by either joining in the 3km or the 5km route and complete it however they wish, from walking, jogging, skipping, with the dog or even with the baby in the pram – it really is the taking part that counts!
Register to take part at www.niathletics.org and go to ‘Enter online races’.
Donor families were represented by Aine Carson, who sadly lost her cousin, Stephen, but whose organs were donated to help save the lives of others, Dickie and Janice Barr spoke of their loss when their wonderful daughter Charlene sadly died while waiting for a lung transplant and Cathy McCracken, who amazingly received a new heart just last month at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, was a shining example of how the gift of life has changed hers forever – these people, and many others like them give us just a little insight into what it means to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register.
It is hoped that by bringing the event to Belfast the number of people signing onto the NHS Organ Donor Register in Northern Ireland will increase dramatically. Lynne Holt, Trustee of TSUK says:
“At just 26%, Northern Ireland has one of the lowest percentages of people signed onto the NHS Organ Donor Register in the UK. We are here to try and change this. Today, in Northern Ireland alone there are 300 people awaiting an organ, and we hope that by showcasing the benefits a transplant can have on a life we may encourage more people to sign up. It is hoped that The Westfield Health British Transplant Games coming to Belfast will help to get this figure up to over 30%.”
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register and help save a life in Northern Ireland today Text: SAVE to 84118, Call 0300 123 2323 or visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk
To find out more about the Westfield Health British Transplant Games please visit www.transplantsport.org.uk
For more information on the games, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events/britishtransplantgames2011.asp or www.transplantsport.org.uk
Or join the Facebook page for the games.
Notes to the editor
Photo caption: Pictured at the event are, from left, Orla Smyth, kidney recipient and Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, PHA, and Chair of the Northern Ireland Organ Donation Task Force Implementation Group.