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Opening Ceremony Puts ‘Miracle of Life’ on Center Stage at 2024 Transplant Games in Birmingham

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Saturday marked the official start of the 2024 Transplant Games of America which features athletes from all 50 states who have helped with or received organ donations. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

Rodney Woodall, a cancer survivor, 20-year retired police officer, donor family member, received a heart transplant in August 2020 but said that wasn’t the “hardest” part of his journey.

“Last year July 18, 2023, I lost my son. The hardest thing I had to do in life was watch my son die … my son, J.J., was inspired by all of us,” Woodall said Saturday during the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Transplant Games of America in Birmingham. “He saw somebody gave their life for his dad to live.”

Jaydon “J.J.” Woodall was a registered organ donor and after his passing, one kidney each went to two adults in Illinois and Missouri.

“When I was in the hospital having my transplant, he was signing the back of his driver’s license; he wanted to be a donor not for me, but he saw how this great community came together to support his dad,” said Woodall.

A pair of 5K participants pose following the Run/Walk in downtown Birmingham. (Jenn Boverhof Photo)

Saturday marked the official start of the 2024 Transplant Games of America which features athletes from all 50 states who have helped with or received organ donations.

Every other year, the Transplant Games of America hosts an Olympic-style competition to celebrate the miracle of life.

The Opening Ceremony was held at Legacy Arena with remarks from Woodall and Bill Ryan, President and CEO of the Transplant Life Foundation.

“How appropriated is it that transplantation one of the greatest miracles of life is on center stage … ?” Ryan said. Speaking to participants, he added, “Over the course of the next five days (July 5-10) you will demonstrate many things to people worldwide; first and foremost, recipients will stand tall competing in over 20 physical and mental challenges proving over and over how transplantation has given them a return to a healthy life.

“Joined by living donors we recognize here the contribution that a selfless donation from a donor has taken us to the next chapter in the amazing medical miracle” Ryan said. “Future generations will look back to this period and marvel at the strides we were taking to save lives.”

Attendees celebrate Saturday during the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Transplant Games of America in Birmingham. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

Most of the 20-plus events will take place at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex but stretch county-wide.

Ryan hopes the lasting message will be getting help for the 110,000 people waiting for organs today. “I’d be really happy if we left town, and somebody said we saved 50 lives,” he said. “We don’t know that. We were just hoping the word would get out and that would happen.”

There will be 44 teams competing. Friday marked the official start of the five-day event.

For more, visit here.

Every other year, the Transplant Games of America hosts an Olympic-style competition to celebrate the miracle of life, and those who gave that miracle. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)