2014 Walkers

The Donate Life float’s Riders represent millions of organ, tissue and cornea transplant recipients who are grateful to donors for their gifts of life.

Jeff E. Carter, Jr.
Jeff E. Carter, Jr.’s son Jeff III (“Jeffrey”) developed kidney disease at age 14. Four years later, his kidneys completely shut down and Jeffrey endured three years of dialysis and numerous hospitalizations, surgeries, and near-death occasions. Once Jeffrey was cleared for a kidney transplant, Jeff did not hesitate to donate. Fourteen years post-transplant, Jeffrey is doing fine. Tragically, however, nine years after he donated his kidney, Jeff’s youngest daughter Rebekah died. “Rebekah’s organs and tissues were donated, and we know that her life continues in others,” said Jeff. “I am careful how I look at people, for I recognize that the eyes that look at me could be Rebekah’s eyes.”

Michael Cervantes
Michael Cervantes’ brother John suffered kidney problems from an early age, including surgery at age 14 for bilateral kidney stone removal. Even as a teenager, Michael was certain that if and when the time came for John to need a kidney transplant, he would be his donor. “It was a no-brainer,” said Michael. In 2009, after a bad infection led to a dramatic drop in John’s kidney function, Michael’s living donation journey began. Michael’s gift of a kidney to his brother on March 11, 2013 allowed John to carry on his 17-year career as a police officer, and brought the brothers closer together than ever before.

Teresa M. (Terie) Cota
Teresa “Terie” Cota was a match for kidney donation to her brother-in-law, Christopher. Sadly, Chris succumbed to one of his many health issues before the surgery. Terie felt that her kidney could still help someone through non-directed donation. On the one-year anniversary of Chris’s death, Terie received the news that a recipient had been identified. “The decision was simple,” said Terie. “I had been given the gift of health, and I wanted to share it. I believe that opportunities to make choices like these are the best part of being human.”

Justin Hostert
In 1986, Craig Hostert was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder of the kidneys. After more than two years on dialysis, his wife Kathleen donated a kidney to him. Fourteen years later, his transplanted kidney suddenly stopped working, returning Craig to dialysis. On Dec. 11, 2012, Craig’s life was once again saved by a living donation from a family member, this time by his son Justin. “Our entire family is committed to do whatever we can to celebrate the miracle of transplantation,” said Justin. “I’m glad I was finally able to fulfill a mission I’ve had since I was nine: to save my dad’s life.”

Kathleen Hostert
 In 1998, Kathleen Hostert donated a kidney to her husband Craig, who had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 1986 and endured more than two years on dialysis before his transplant. Fourteen years later, his transplanted kidney suddenly stopped working, returning Craig to dialysis. On Dec. 11, 2012, Craig’s life was once again saved by a living donation from a family member, this time by his and Kathleen’s son Justin. “To watch my husband endure dialysis not once, but twice, and have my son give life back to our family has made us even more committed to enjoy life and continue to inspire the community to donate life each year at the Donate Life Run/Walk,” said Kathleen.

Jessica Jurado
Jessica Jurado spent many years watching her mother suffer from chronic kidney disease. At age 20, she tried to donate but did not biologically match her mother. A nurse referred her to the paired exchange program, and the search for her mother’s kidney donor began immediately. Two months later, Jessica donated her kidney to JePahl White, and her mother received a new kidney the next day. Jessica has since run many marathons and lives a full life. “This experience has changed my life completely,” she said. “I have a healthy mother who is stronger and better because of this program. I’m eternally grateful.”

Kevin Lucien Noyes
Through his career in tissue banking, Kevin Noyes has long understood the importance of and the need for organ and tissue donation. In March 2011, the need became very personal when he learned that Marlin, his high school math teacher and father of a close friend, needed a kidney transplant. Drawing on his conviction to do the right thing, Kevin underwent testing and was found to be a match for Marlin. The only glitch was that Kevin needed to lose weight, which he accomplished by the transplant date of June 1, 2012. Kevin hopes his story inspires others to explore the opportunity to donate and offer the hope of restored life for someone like Marlin.

Phillip Palmer
Phillip Palmer was inspired to donate a kidney after reading an article about then-NBA star and transplant recipient Alonzo Mourning. Rick Reilly’s column mentioned Mourning had received a kidney from a living donor, which “was something I’d never heard of,” said Phillip, morning anchor for ABC7 in Los Angeles. He resolved then to one day save someone’s life as a living kidney donor. That person turned out to be longtime friend Dale Davis, who became very sick, very fast. “I knew…that I was going to be the match,” said Phillip. “That transplant in 2007 saved my friend’s life and changed mine forever. I’ve been given so much more than I ever gave.”

Kathy L. Vochoska
Kathy Vochoska watched as her son Chris, a college student, went into sudden kidney failure due to Berger’s Disease. She donated a kidney to her son at the end of March 2011, and the transplant worked immediately. “With so many people waiting for a transplant, we know how blessed we are,” Kathy said. She now volunteers as a Donate Life Ambassador, leading a team of volunteers in Kern Coounty. “Although I hate that my son got sick, the silver lining of our journey is that I am now involved with the most compassionate and inspiring group of people I have ever met,” she said. “My life has been forever changed.”

LaKishia White
After witnessing firsthand the effects of her husband JePahl’s failed kidney transplant, LaKishia White was determined that he would not have to wait another seven years for a new kidney. Through the paired exchange program, JePahl received his second transplant from a young woman, Jessica Jurado, who donated on behalf of her mother. LaKishia donated her kidney to a person in Pennsylvania on behalf of JePahl. “Jessica is now part of our family,” said LaKishia. “She has a beautiful spirit and we are thankful for her.”

Karen Willis
When Karen Willis decided to help a complete stranger in a big way, she liked the idea of starting a chain of kidney transplants, freeing several people from dialysis. While still in the hospital, Karen was able to meet her recipient, a father of two girls. A few months later she met others in the chain: three donors and two of the three recipients. “I gave three people back their health, their dreams, and their ability to have a quality life with their families,” Karen said. “I know that I made a difference in a big, life-changing way, and I am so grateful for that experience.”

Dr. Kelly M. Wright
Kelly Wright, DVM, was watching the 2013 Rose Parade with her family and was struck by the Donate Life float and its participants. She decided on the spot that she would donate a kidney to a stranger and signed up on the National Kidney Registry. Then via Facebook she connected with a man in North Reading, Mass. who wound up as the recipient of Kelly’s gift of life. “I will never have a bigger accomplishment in my life than having one of my kidneys working inside of another human who may have died without it, Kelly proclaimed. “Living donation is a blessing for both donor and recipient.”