From time to time, the opportunity arises to meet a hero. These opportunities seem to be few and far between, but maybe that is because we aren’t always paying close enough attention to those around us. Intuitively, I know that there are many heroes among us, but sometimes spotting them is difficult. Not so with the hero we met a couple of weeks ago. The minute he greeted us with his friendly smile and shook our hands, we knew we’d met someone special.
I am writing about Chris Klug. Now, if you are a snowboarder, you should have heard of Chris. He has been a World Cup Snowboarding Champion five times and the US National Champion 11 times. In 2002, he won a Bronze Medal at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games and placed 7th at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Being skiers, I am embarrassed to say we hadn’t heard of Chris. (Actually this isn’t quite true as my husband actually had heard of him through a mutual friend who raves about Chris’s wakeboarding and surfing ability. Apparently Chris can do anything with a board.) But after hearing his story and listening to him speak, we wished we had known about him in 2002 and followed his career.
Now, I am way too jaded to call athletes “heroes” just because of their athletic ability. I remember basketball “great” Charles Barclay being questioned by the media about some inappropriate behavior and replying “Hey, I am not a role model.” And sadly, that is often the attitude of many gifted athletes. The reality is, however, that anyone in the public eye, for whatever reason, has the potential to be a role model and ultimately a hero — not just for our kids, but for each of us. What follows is a short version of Chris’s story and the reason I think he is a hero.
In 1993, Chris was diagnosed with a rare liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. In 1998, he placed 6th in snowboarding at the Nagano Olympics. By 1999, he was on the liver transplant list awaiting a donor. In July 2000, Chris received a liver from a gunshot victim. The liver saved his life and in 2002, he medaled at the Olympic games, the first American ever to compete in the Olympics after an organ transplant.
The night we met Chris, he was speaking at the Western Colorado Boy Scouts Council Peak Vision Awards Dinner. My boys used to be Cub Scouts, but aren’t any more and so they were a little reluctant to attend. However, a friend had invited us knowing that we would want to hear Chris. She was right. As he relayed his story with humor and modesty, we were moved. But what was especially moving was his description of now having two families: his birth family and his donor family. Chris talked about how nervous he was to meet the people whose tragic loss had saved his life. He talked about the positive perspective and inspiration he has received from his donor recipient experience. And, in talking about how important organ donation is, he inspired us to become Donor Dudes through the Chris Klug Foundation.
Well, it turns out that I am way too old to be a Donor Dude (notwithstanding the fact that I am perhaps the wrong gender, depending on the breadth of one’s personal definition of “Dude”). Donor Dudes is unique among organ donation organizations because it is focused on using the popularity of action sports among high school and college age students to promote organ donation awareness. The immediate goal is to help students establish grassroots Donor Dudes chapters on every high school and college campus in the world.
The Chris Klug Foundation website offers tons of information and support to students seeking to make a difference and to host a Donor Dudes event at their school. A mountain bike park just opened in our town. I am telling you, if I were a high school or college student, I would be putting together an event at the park, with local professional riders and signing up Dudes. Being that I am not in high school or college, I am passing this onto my friends and contacts in our local schools in hopes that this will inspire some local kids to undertake an amazing community service project.
For my part, I will donate $.50 for every view this post gets today, up to $100. Please join me by sharing this post, tweeting it, adding it to your Facebook page and maybe even making your own donation or putting a bug in the ear of someone who can be a Donor Dude. Please join me in the per-view pledge and pass this post on.
Think about it. Do it. And, thank you.
Chris Klug’s Rules to Live By (as presented at the Western Colorado Boy Scouts Council Peak Vision Awards):
“Adapt and overcome.” — US Marine Corps
“Never, never, never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill
“Plan your race and race your plan.” — Chris Klug’s father
And finally, “None of us succeed alone.” — Chris Klug
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