You might say Rancho Cucamonga resident Regina Armstrong has thousands of family members.
That’s how many people have joined her in San Diego for this week’s Transplant Games. It is the first time America’s Finest City has hosted the six-day international gathering.
“It’s an absolutely amazing event with so many people that are just family in reality,” Armstrong said as she prepared to march with Team SoCal in the event’s parade Saturday along Harbor Drive.
Armstrong, 48, is doubly blessed. She received a new heart at the UCLA Medical Center in 1987 and a kidney 3 1/2 years ago.
Saturday she labeled herself a supporter, but has her eye on taking part in the next games in two years, she said.
“I feel amazing,” Armstrong said, “and if it wasn’t for my donors, and the donor families for saying ‘yes,’ I would not be here celebrating this day. This is an amazing event for everyone to come together and just celebrate life.”
The parade featured a float from Rady Children’s Hospital, big balloons, the Sweetwater High School Marching Band and “teams” from nearly 40 states that colorfully and comically represented their states.
Wisconsin had a Guernsey cow. Georgia had members in peanut and peach costumes. East Coast members donned lobster hats, and the Northwestern group carried umbrellas.
Those from Buffalo, New York, wore buffalo wing hats.
The 18th Transplant Games of America began Friday to honor the legacy of donors who gave the gift of life, while highlighting the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation. Events conclude Wednesday with an estimated 10,000 participants.
Nearly 40 contingents from across the country will join teams from Brazil, Colombia and Australia to compete in 20 sports at the San Diego Convention Center and other sites in the region, including UC San Diego.
Every two years the Transplant Games of America gathers thousands of transplant recipients, living donors, donor families, individuals on the waiting list, caregivers, transplant professionals, supporters and spectators for what the call the world’s largest celebration of life.
Sports San Diego and the SDCCU Holiday Bowl secured the bid for San Diego to host the 2022 Games, produced by the Transplant Life Foundation.
Sports include swimming, track and field, bowling, basketball and cycling plus less strenuous competitions such as cornhole, Texas Hold’em Poker and darts.
All activities honor the legacy of donors who gave the ultimate gift of life and celebrate the success of transplantation.
While events are spread around the region, most will take place at the convention center and UC San Diego. The game village, also at the convention center, is open to the public.
Parade grand marshals were organ recipients actor Jason Gray-Stanford (heart transplant) and San Diegan John Brockington (kidney transplant), a former Green Bay Packers player.
The Games schedule is at transplantgamesofamerica.org.
To donate money or learn how to be a donor, see donatelife.net.