2018 Float Walker Honorees
Meet the inspiring living donors.
Ann Rayburn is passionate about her daughter, her pets, and helping others. On June 24, 2016, Ann donated a kidney to her friend, Tess. But Ann’s connection to donation started long before then. In 1989, she left critical care nursing to work as a procurement transplant coordinator in Kentucky. 19 years ago, she moved to Birmingham to work at Alabama Organ Center, and she currently serves as their Director of Education. Ann and Tess met just prior to the move to Alabama. Tess and her husband became friends and provided a support system for Ann. Ann knew early on that Tess suffered from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease that affected Tess’ family. When Tess experienced kidney failure, Ann got tested and was a good match, and she donated her kidney.When Elaine’s uncle needed a kidney to save his life, she didn’t hesitate to become a living donor and share one of her kidneys with him. Tests revealed she was a great match, and thanks to this gift, he was able to enjoy more time with his family. Elaine felt inspired and she wanted to help someone else through living donation. Eight years after her first surgery, she was placed on a list for altruistic donation, and a few months later, Elaine went on to a second surgery that helped save the life a 9-month old girl she didn’t know. Thanks to Elaine’s gift, Jaylee has been able to grow with her family and she is now a healthy and happy 8-year old girl. Elaine is now a mom, a wife and a OneLegacy Ambassador, and through her volunteer work she continues inspiring others to donate life.Growing up, Holly was an active teen who enjoyed sports and athletics. Diagnosed with kidney problems at the age of 16, she was told that she would eventually need a transplant. While playing volleyball at the age of 29, she started feeling ill and her legs got swollen. Her nephrologist confirmed that her kidneys were failing and she needed dialysis and a kidney transplant. Several of Holly’s family members wanted to help and were tested as potential matches, until Holly’s cousin, Kimi, was a match. Holly had a successful kidney transplant on March 6, 2000 and she now considers that day her second birthday. Holly has a new appreciation for life and Kimi’s gift has given her a purpose in life. Just three months after her transplant, Holly was back on the beach. Since her transplant, Holly has run a marathon, continues to play beach volleyball on the weekends and has competed in the Transplant Games of America and the World Transplant Games.Jeff Leone considers all organ donors and their families heroes. He knows this to be true because he has received two kidneys in his life—one from a 23-year-old man who died in a car accident, and the other from his wife. A bruised kidney in 1984 took Jeff to the doctor where he’d eventually learn he had kidney disease. Twelve years later, he entered end-stage kidney failure and began dialysis. Plans to receive a kidney from his brother were halted at the last minute. After the discovery and removal of a large tumor on his small intestine, Jeff learned that the tumor would have likely killed him had he received his brother’s kidney. Jeff counted his blessings and accepted the fact that he’d wait several years for his transplant.Kelsea McKinley was an active 8 year old when she was diagnosed with scoliosis in 2010. To slow the progression of the scoliosis, she wore a back brace 24 hours a day for two years. Unfortunately, the disease progressed to the point where the curvature of her spine was affecting her organs and overall health. Since the brace option did not work, she had surgery two years later to straighten her back with rods and screws (donated by Medtronic,) as well as donated tissue to aid in her recovery. After nearly a year, she made a full recovery and is currently a sophomore in High School in Las Vegas. She is currently enrolled in the Digital Media program and plans to become a family counselor and therapist to help others.Richard Rodriguez currently serves as the Chief Training Officer with the Coroner Division of the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department. He has been with the Coroner’s Division since 1981 and currently educates peace offers about the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation. After receiving his certificate in Fire Science, he continued his course work in Criminal Justice and he was the first Deputy Coroner Peace Officer to attend the P.O.S.T. Supervisory Leadership Institute. Richard comes from a background of Law Enforcement, with his father and brother working for the Santa Ana Police Department for many years. Richard is an advocate for life; he is passionate about supporting organ and tissue donation and transplantation. He is always looking for ways to communicate to the public about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor.In July 2017, Ryanne Wilkes began her career as a nurse on the Labor and Delivery floor in Pensacola, Fla. Ryanne’s nursing career may have been impossible without the gift of tissue donation that she received. Ryanne had a severe impingement of her left hip that caused complete deterioration of her cartilage and labrum. She was in pain every day for two years following an injury that exacerbated the impingement. The problem with her hip became so bad that she was unable to take part in some of her favorite activities and walking became painful. During Ryanne’s senior year of nursing school, she received a tissue graft for a reconstructive hip surgery. Due to the generous gift of tissue donation, along with months of physical therapy, she was able to participate in her senior practicum and now works on her feet for 13 hours at a time helping patients every day as a nurse. “This donation changed my life,” said Ryanne. “I truly do not think I could have made it very far in my nursing career with my hip in such awful shape. Not only has the tissue donation changed my life, but it will also touch the lives of the many patients I care for throughout my career.”Suzanne, of Tulsa, Okla., was shocked to hear the news that her 21-year-old daughter, Tiffany, was in acute kidney failure after she had just given birth to her first child. As Suzanne tried to help her daughter navigate such devastating news, they tackled every doctor’s visit with a positive attitude. When she learned her daughter would need a kidney transplant to survive, Suzanne volunteered her own without hesitation or fear. Suzanne began researching everything that was involved with kidney donation, and reading stories of others who had gone through similar experiences. She recalls being at peace with the entire process, knowing that a donated kidney from her would turn Tiffany’s life around. She was a perfect match for her daughter, and she donated her kidney. After donating her kidney, Suzanne lives a healthy and normal life. Suzanne and Tiffany will both be part of the 2018 Donate Life float.