PRESS RELEASEFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jeff Shapiro MD, The Relay/Organs 'R' Us ("ORU"), 650.508.9700
Gilda Vallente of Daly City, waits for kidney, 650.754.0459
Nancy Fox of Modesto, emcee, heart donor, 209.521.1251
Steve Fratus of Castro Valley, runner 1, liver recipient, 510.537.7052
Chris Domine of Brisbane, runner 3, kidney recipient, 650.992.8213
Greg Osterman of Loveland, Ohio, runner 4, heart recipient, 513.697.8744
Raj Gopal of Daly City, runner 9 for wife, Gilda, who waits for a kidney, 650.754.0459
Nelisa Fullerton of Austin, Texas, runner 12 for father, Grant, liver recipient, 512.233.2119
Rita Comes of Menlo Park, ORU team captain since 1997, 415.640.1757
WHAT HAS 36 LEGS, 24 FEET AND RUNS ALL NIGHT?
SAN FRANCISCO, CA October 19, 2004 - During The Relay, more than 3,500 runners will start from the Calistoga Mineral Water Company on October 23 as "California's Longest Party" gets underway. Stretching from the scenic Napa Valley Wine Country to the Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, this event combines technology and running to promote the critical need for donated organs through Organs 'R' Us.
"Welcome to Calistoga and thanks for supporting Organs 'R' Us," booms Nancy Fox over the loudspeaker. "I am an organ donor. I donated my heart to a 57 year old man from Florida." As mouths drop open in disbelief, Nancy continues. "You heard correctly. I am a heart donor, but we have a race to begin so you will hear the rest of my story at the finish." Nancy sounds the start gun and 12 member teams begin their 24-hour adventure.
The 2001, 2002, and 2004 Relays are dedicated to Nicholas Green, who donated organs to seven Italians in 1994, including Maria Pia Pedala. Representing a grateful Italy, Maria Pia will ring an Italian bell in Calistoga to signal the start of the race. Organs 'R' Us runners will relay the bell 199 miles to Maria Pia at the finish. Maria Pia will hang the bell on the Children's Bell Tower in Bodega Bay with 140 other bells sent by Italian families, schools and churches to express sympathy and gratitude to the Green Family.
Members of the ORU team have personal reasons for pounding the pavement. Steve Fratus of Castro Valley, runner 1 for the past three Relays, received a liver. Steve will speak at the awards ceremony on the beach, reminding others that his friend and ORU founder, Paul McVetty, waited in vain four years for a liver. Chris Domine of Brisbane, received a kidney and will participate as runner 3. Chris manages the Fresh Choice Restaurant in San Bruno.
World record holder, Greg Osterman will run fourth on the ORU team. On October 26, 1992, doctors in Cincinnati, Ohio, told Greg's family that he would not survive another 24 hours. Later that day, a stranger's family saved 38-year-old Greg's life by donating a loved one's heart. Greg holds the world record for completing seven marathons after receiving a heart transplant.
The 2003 Relay was dedicated to Gilda Vallente, 36, of Daly City who waits for a kidney. Gilda's husband, Raj Gopal, will spread the organ donation message as runner 9. Nelisa Fullerton of Austin, Texas, will run legs 12, 24 and 36 for her father ,Grant, who received a liver in 2003. The ORU children, Raj, Gilda and other ORU runners will join Nelisa on the beach and finish as a team.
Through Organs 'R' Us, the transfer of the baton from runner to runner symbolizes the transfer of an organ from donor to recipient. The 1999 and 2000 Relays were dedicated to 47-year-old Paul McVetty who passed away on October 24, 2000 after waiting four years for a liver. Like Paul, 18 Americans die everyday waiting for transplants.
The 1997 and 1998 Relays were dedicated to Delaney Corbitt of Pleasanton who received a kidney at age 3. While runners crossed the 1997 finish, President Clinton signed a Relay shirt for Delaney at Stanford Hospital. Captain Mike Corbitt will lead team Organ-ize the Planet to celebrate Delaney's good health.
Started in 1995 with just 9 teams, The Relay is the nation's second largest long distance relay attracting 300 teams of 12 runners from the US and Canada. The 199-mile course through 36 cities is divided into 36 segments and boasts the largest number of tourist destinations of any run. Running 3 legs of 3 to 8 miles, participants travel through Calistoga, Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight under a full moon, through San Francisco and Silicon Valley to Santa Cruz.
The Relay is not about being the fastest. It is about doing the best one can for their team in a celebration of life and running. While conquering as a team what few dare to face alone, runners work together to meet challenges and overcome hardships during the 24-hour adventure. Add bands, food, full moon and glow jewelry and "California's Longest Party" is "the most fun 24 feet can have…in the best place on earth."
Organs 'R' Us, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation, was founded in San Francisco in 1996 and supports transplant recipients, candidates, family members, friends and donor families by promoting organ donation through athletics. Through walking and running, this group showcases their fitness proving that transplantation restores health. "In the long run, organ donation saves lives," says Organs 'R' Us coach Jeff Shapiro.
Gilda Vallente, Nancy Fox, Steve Fratus, Greg Osterman, Chris Domine, Raj Gopal, Nelisa Fullerton, Reg and Maggie Green (Nicholas' parents) and Rita Comes are available for interviews.
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