Thursday, July 31, 2008

Signing off from the 2008 Transplant Games

Well, we did it…and we did it in a record breaking way! Another successful Transplant Games is in the books and the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation, through generous support from our treasured donors, helped make it possible.

As you have undoubtedly read, nearly 125 Phi Sigma Sigma volunteers from all over the country converged on Pittsburgh for a life-changing weekend. For us, what is extra special about this trip to the Games is that the stories keep coming. We are still getting almost daily emails from our volunteers who have reached out to athletes via e-mail and are hearing more about their triumphs of life. We are still hearing from our volunteers who, because of their experience at the Games, have decided to make another generous donation to the Foundation so we're able to continue supporting the Games, as well as leadership development programs and scholarships and grants.

It was equally inspiring to hear from you, our faithful readers, as you reacted to blog posts and left comments for us. It was touching to read your comments and exciting every time Katie yelled out that we had another comment. Yes, we were reading your comments in real time, just as you were reading our posts in real time.

There are so many people to thank for their support of the Games. You have read about some of them before, but it bears another thank you to the corporations, friends, chapters and sisters who generously supported our experience at the Games. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for making all of this possible.

Signing off from the 2008 Games,

Kim Hildred, Foundation President
Katie Herschede, Transplant Games Chairman

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Phi Sigs Are Famous!

Here's the latest PR Phi Sig or its sisters have received from the Games!

Check out this clip from You can see Phi Sigma Sigma volunteers in a number of the scenes! Click here to watch the video!

This video clip features Gretchen Ehle and her father Randy, and while it doesn't mention Phi Sig, BOTH are wearing their Phi Sig shirts! Click here to view the clip!

Here's Aubrey Birden's interview with Channel 11 (she's wearing the blue-green T-shirt): Click here to watch!

And this is the article from the paper with Aubrey's picture (shown previously on this blog): Click here to view the photo and read the story!

My 'Transplant Games moment' came AFTER the event...

From Candace Hogan, Foundation VP and volunteer at the Games, dictated as she returned home from a business trip.

Here's a story that I think illustrates how the Games can affect you in ways you never expected or thought possible:

Immediately after the Games, I had to attend a conference for work, meeting people in my company whom I usually only work with remotely. One of the people I bumped into is the IT guy who helps me by phone several times a year.... Nice guy, and I just happened to mention how I'd spent my weekend in Pittsburgh.

Well, much to my surprise, his eyes starting tearing up. He said, "You know my 25-year-old son was killed in an accident two years ago?" He'd been a promising young law student in San Diego, and his death devastated the family. Just before the accident, his son had explained to his parents that he intended to be a donor. He was very specific about his wishes. ... And after his untimely, tragic passing, "We donated everything we could," his father said. But it had not been an easy decision.... I spent a few minutes explaining what I'd witnessed at the Games and how people were living normal, healthy and good lives because of the selfless giving of families like his.

The next day, when I was walking through the corporate office and saying good-bye, I visited the IT guy's office. I complimented pictures of his family and his son, and just as I got to the doorway, he stopped me and said that he'd told his wife about what we'd discussed the day before, and what a comfort my stories of the Games were to both of them. They felt they'd made the right decision.

For me, THIS was my "Games moment" - the one that struck home about the importance of the work we do. I suspect there will be many post-Games moments for sisters who volunteered and, perhaps, for those who are reading this blog!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pictures from the Transplant Games!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From Judith: 'Pleasant, wonderful, heartwarming'

Brief note from Judith Distler, past Grand Archon and volunteer at this year's Games:

It was a pleasure to attend, and to live our own values.

It was wonderful to see so many collegians working with others from different chapters, and to remember that these women came on their own time and at their own expense.

It was a heartwarming experience in all respects.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bonding with the Harrises, 'regular folks just like you and me'

Lisa R. writes: No matter where I went this past weekend, and regardless of the thousands of athletes milling about, I always seemed to find the Harris family of Huntington, West Virginia. Be it at breakfast, on buses, outside table tennis or in hallways -- we kept running into each other. After about the fourth time, we accepted this fate, and bonded.


The family is led by the dynamic duo of Ken and Joy Ann, the latter of whom is the athlete of the group and the apple of her husband's eye, given how warmly and proudly he speaks of her.... Three years ago, Joy Ann had a life-saving transplant -- and, that same year she married Ken! This red-headed, fun-loving spitfire of a woman had more energy than I feel on a good day, and watching her at the Games was truly a "Joy" to behold.

The Harrises and I talked about everything.... About their adorable granddaughter, Gabby (who, it's said, lives true to her name!) -- about "Brain Age" for DS, and staying young no matter what age you are.... And about so much more.

These were regular, good folks, overcoming an uncommon, even difficult situation that could affect any one of us. What a blessing to meet them, and what a reminder to us all that people who need organ donations are just like you and me....

'I loved the Games, and Chris Klug, and ... everything!'

From Ashley Ferrentino, EZ chapter sister (and one of the Phi Sig 5K runners from Sunday a.m.!)

After spending 2 days at the Transplant Games this past weekend, the only thing that I can say is WOW! It was such a wonderful experience, seeing people from all over the U.S., hearing stories that made me cry, meeting my new hero (U.S. Olympic snowboarder Chris Klug), running in the 5K race, and spending some quality time with my fellow sisters.

It was an eye-opening experience that made me think about a lot of things. Since the opening ceremonies on Saturday night, I am seriously considering putting my name on a "live donor" list in hopes of changing someone's life. I know this is a serious thing, but I really am thinking about it!

I hope there's a way I can go to the next one in 2010!

LITP, {Looking Into Trans-Planting? hahaha)

P.S.... Bill Wohl is my new hero (google him!)

More from Wendy... My 'Michael' story

FROM: Wendy Lau, continued from a previous blog (submitted after she'd returned home from the Games)....

Of all the people I've met in the last two days, I'd have to say that Michael is the one that stands out in my mind. Michael is competing with Team Arizona this year, and has already done pretty well in two days' worth of competing, including earning a few medals and breaking some records!

But for me, it's not about how fast he is, how many records he's broken, or the fact that he could probably kill me with just a thought, it's about the joy. (In case you're wondering, Michael just got his second black belt in Hapkido - apologies if I spelled that wrong - and apparently works as some super secret government agent; well, I'm not ENTIRELY sure about his occupation because as he says, "If I told you, I'd have to kill you.")

So, back to the "joy" part of what I just said.... If you don't know what I mean about that, you will in about 60 seconds - or longer, depending on how fast you read! Within minutes of my conversation with Michael, I found out that he had leukemia, and had received a bone marrow transplant from his older sister some years ago. For any of you that have ever kept up with my ramblings on MySpace, or just happen to know me, you know that not very long ago, the Phi Sig chapter I advise at the University of La Verne lost a sister to leukemia.

Neddie Iniguez was just barely 21 when she passed away, but she remains in my heart and in my thoughts. When doctors told Neddie that there wasn't much left that they could do for her, a lesser person would have become bitter and angry about the hand that was dealt to her - but not Neddie. Neddie took it in stride. Sometimes, I think she worried more about how her friends, family, and sorority sisters would take the news than the reality of her own mortality.

Neddie was about living in the NOW - savoring the good moments, forgetting the bad, and giving it everything she had. She chose to focus on the positive, and embrace the joy of life. Yes, she had her moments, but overwhelmingly, more often than not, she was the candle that lit up the darkness. When someone was having a bad day, Neddie would be the one to try to pick them up, give them a hug, and remind them that there was happiness to be had. Ironic, isn't it? That the person who would have had every right to be angry and frustrated and bitter would be the one that was busy comforting others, making them laugh, and bringing joy into their lives. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

Although I miss Neddie, the memory of her words, her actions, and her philosophy on life has carried me through some of my own darkest days. Most recently, I had hit some rough patches due to some personal issues, and I was about as bummed out as I've been in awhile. In fact, the day before I left to come out to the Transplant Games, I was feeling incredibly stressed out, and on edge. As I was driving home from work, I suddenly thought about Neddie. It was enough to wake me up and remind me to appreciate the blessings in my life. I know that sounds simplistic, but maybe you had to know Neddie to know why it works.

At any rate, Michael reminds me of Neddie - and no, it's not the fact that he had leukemia, although it does play a part. Michael reminds me of Neddie because he's energetic and full of life. He can talk your ear off (in a good way), he cracks random jokes, and he reminds me of how joyous life is, and can be. The timing couldn't be better. My immediate stress levels on Thursday were alleviated by thoughts of Neddie; the Transplant Games have been a celebration of life, and the end of my trip has been bookended by meeting Michael.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I feel like it's one of those signs from the Universe confirming that everything is going to work out just right.

Liz's blog: 'Tested, but never bested - and we always aim high!'

Liz and kids

From Liz Rodriguez, Foundation Director and Counsel (and Games photographer, whom we saw everywhere and yet, as sisters who love her, never "saw" to hang out with, it would seem, because of how busy she was!):

Despite being tired and sleep deprived, this was an unforgettable weekend. (One thing I never figured out - how I could go left or right while driving around and end up in the same place. I felt I was lost all weekend!)

I continue to be amazed and inspired by my sisters. To say that our leadership skills were tested this weekend was an understatement. But we proved we can adapt to difficult situations and make things happen.

Above all, we are all A-types :) We all learned new skills (Tara can now measure long jump; Missy learned a lot about basketball scoring and timeouts). Even more impressively, every single Phi Sig there went above and beyond.

Here are a few examples:

  • Wendy and Missy made sure swimming events went off on Sunday.
    Dani made sure the "big boys" played fair.

  • Caryn made sure the bowling tournament started (and was a "pro negotiator" for pins).

  • Candace and Pam even made chocolate pudding for us!!

  • And to all our "bouncers" at the basketball tournament and track and field, you did a fantastic job under difficult circumstances.

Thank you all for Aiming High and making all Phi Sigs proud!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Oops, can't forget track and field ...!

Final blog from Missy (who STILL has a fever, and is still blogging! Talk about dedication):

After getting myself ready Monday morning, I ran to the track and field games to help Stef out as promised. This was a great end to my time here. I got to see my Team Florida basketball players competing in long jump and softball throw. These kids are incredible. I also met Samantha, a superstar long jumper who had a heart transplant. This little athlete is going to go far. I also am going to send Samantha the pic I caught of her in mid-jump. Great job today!

Well, that is the end of my games comments (unless I think of something else I missed). I cannot tell you how much this meant to me attending these games. I met so many incredible people and heard many stories that truly touched me. Phi Sig, thanks for making this possible. I do not care where the next games are being held, I will be there. I just need to remember to take my GPS or pray we do not have as many bridges to cross or road construction to navigate around (oh and sorry again for those who got to experience my off-road driving skills!! : P

Love to all the athletes, donor families and living donors -- and to my Phi Sig sisters who were such an incredible help this weekend!

'I've never seen kids like these...' -- Missy's b-ball experience

From Missy S. after returning home from the games, driving 5 hours and ending up with a 101-degree fever!

I just woke up from a much needed nap, and I am missing the games and the athletes already. So I decided to try to finish talking about the events from yesterday and today. I need to make a few comments about 3-on-3 basketball last night because I met some of my favorite athletes there.

I was lucky enough to have Liz Rodriguez helping me score for the youth games -- and Liz, I have to tell you I had a blast! It was so awesome hanging out with you and getting to know you!!

Liz and I were able to watch Teams Philly, Indiana, Florida and Mississippi play. Now this was the 14-and-under group, and these games started around 6:30 p.m. and were not over til way past 10:30. I was exhausted from a 15-hour day of volunteering, but watching these little athletes with so much energy and drive keep playing 'til they were exhausted was beyond words.

I have to shout out to a few of these powerhouses. I mentioned Junior Whopper in an earlier blog. Junior Whopper was a little guy named Michael, but he had such a huge personality. His mother told me that he just received a second kidney on Labor Day and without this second kidney he would not be here with us today. My eyes welled with tears as I looked at him and knew how special this little boy was.

Then there was Mary Katherine, Garrett and Payton from Team Mississippi. These kids were the only three on the team which meant they never got to sub out and take a break. They also played three 20-minute games in a row. I have never seen 3 kids with more love for life and drive than these three. Go Team Mississippi!!

Then, Team Florida. I fell in love with Gabriel, Heather, Reese and Trevor. These kids were so awesome on the courts and each one of their stories was just incredible. I have a pic of me with some of these kids, and one with Liz with them so I hope you get to see them. (Editor's note: They are posted elsewhere in the blog.) Thanks for making our night so fun!!!

The NKF staff volunteers also thanked us profusely for the work we did that night at the basketball games. Not only are the athletes thanking us for being here, but the staff also has told me they are so appreciative that we are here to help them and make things run smoothly for the athletes. It is a wonderful feeling to know we are making a difference in a lot of lives.

I am going to go lie down and debate whether I can find the energy to go to work tomorrow. I am sad the games are over, but cannot wait til the 2010 games to see how much my little basketball players have grown. 'Night all!

From Julie: Monday's track and field success stories

Monday, off to track and field with all of the other Phi Sigs still in attendance at the games. On the way to Carnegie Mellon I got to meet Jack from Team Arkansas as he hopped on the hotel shuttle with us. Jack has been featured several times on the blog with Caryn and on a post by Missy. I would definitely say that Jack is a new Phi Sig friend. What a great guy. This is his first games, but he said he is "hooked" and won't miss them again. We will be sure to be on the lookout for him at the next games.

Track and field - what a huge event. All volunteers were very much needed and all played an active role in their duties. We were all over the place - I don't think there was an event going on where a Phi Sig was not spotted. The time passed very quickly and then we were done. The one big question that I kept hearing though is, "What is a tartan?" As in the Carnegie Mellon Tartans. We quickly learned it is a plaid pattern, like what is used for a Scottish kilt. Their mascot is a Scottish terrier with a tartan plaid sweater.

Last thing was the 5-hour drive back home. Thanks to Jamie and Autumn for taking turns sleeping so that I always had company for the ride. The weekend consisted of little sleep, coordinating showering schedules, not eating regularly, having trouble navigating the city, etc. You've heard it all throughout the different blogs. It was great sharing this experience with all Phi Sigs. I'm glad Autumn could experience this as her first Phi Sig event, being our newest initiate. It was great recapping the weekend with both Jamie and Autumn on the drive home.

What an amazing weekend. How wonderful to see so many Phi Sigs give of their own time and money to be in attendance and dedicated to something so worthwhile. I don't think there was one of us there who was not touched by someone participating at the games and who will not carry this experience with them forever. I wasn't fully sure what to expect upon arriving. I was excited to know that I would be seeing fellow Phi Sigs from around the country, but quickly learned this was not like other Phi Sig events. I really spent very little time catching up with other Phi Sigs as I quickly learned this was about something so much more, and so much bigger.

Hope to see you all, and to have an even bigger Phi Sig delegation, in Madison, Wisc., in 2010!

Julie Orchard
Community 4 Archon

GO 'Team Phi Sig! - Team Philly's Sharon (EZ Chapter) at shot put!

At the shot put competition: Phi Sig sister Sharon got some air on this baby!

Missy, Sharon and Lisa R., in the shade of the tree where track and field competitions were taking place at Carnegie Mellon.

Signing off for now... more soon!

OK, sisters and friends...! Many more stories to come, but time has run out for blogging from the Games, as some of us are hiking it quickly to the airport from track and field competitions (and the computer for blogging goes with).

Katie will no doubt post something after this from her Blackberry.

Transplant Games logo

For now, let me end this part of the Games (which live on in our hearts and memories, and which you'll hear more about once we arrive home) with something Michele said to us just moments ago, while surveying the vastness of the Games below on the field, filled with children and adults -- all survivors of medical conditions that threatened their lives, if not for the miracle of organ donation. She said:

"We need to remember how good our lives are.... That, no matter what we're experiencing in our personal lives, or how bad a day might be, our troubles are nothing compared to what others overcome."

We admire the heroism of the athletes, and we thank every sister who volunteered to help make this NKF event a tremendous success!

Signing off for now


Lisa R.

Blog interview with weary, wonderful Michele Dominiak!

Michele and Kim <-Michele and Kim @ Expo!

Blog from Michele Dominiak, leaning wearily on Katie's camera bag from the banister above Lisa R.'s head in the president's press box above the Tartans track & field, as dictated to Lisa:

LR: Say something, Michele. I'll blog what you say.

MD: While I am tired, this has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I'm so very glad I got the opportunity to participate.

LR: Favorite event moment?

MD: Watching the little kids swim, cheering them on, especially the ones who were struggling to finish.

LR: Why was that your favorite?

MD: Well, a) because it was incredibly emotional and b) because we're just so proud of these kids that you don't even know.

LR: Favorite Phi Sig moment of the Games?
DZ girls
MD: At the Expo on Saturday when most of our women were there, the Delta Zeta (Stevens Institute) women lined up on each side of the aisle, creating a sort of gauntlet for athletes to walk through. And as they did, our sisters hollered and cheered. It was so cool.

Katie H. (chipping in from a chair nearby, surveying the Games below): Yeah, some people started dancing through it!

LR: Sort of like a recruitment event?

Michele, Katie: (laughter) Yeah, sort of!

MD: Other good times: Trying to find your way to or from any venue here... an adventure any time you got in the car! Oh, and the "inclinator!"

LR: What's this about the 'inclinator'?

MD: (laughs) Last night, when Wendy and I were taking three Kappa women to the airport, we were trying to act like tour guides or something. And we passed the Duquesne Incline (cable car railway that transports people up and down the steep, scenic Mount Washington overlooking the city) and Wendy says, "What's this called? The 'Inclinator?' I think it's one of the tallest in the world.... Anyway, it's something tall and big!" Needless to say, we were very informative and impressive!

Bird's eye view!

We are up here in the press box watching all of the amazing track and field events. We have an awesome view!

Right now, a Phi Sig alumna is competing in the softball throw. Good luck and bring home the gold!

Sent from my BlackBerry device from Cincinnati Bell Wireless

Wendy: 'Back in Cali, but my heart's still in Pitt with you...'

From Wendy Lau, posted at 3 a.m. PT after returning from the Games to her home in California:

Okay, so I'm home safe and sound now, but here's the blog I wrote right before I left... love to everyone still at the Games! I had an amazing time!

So here I am in the hotel room that has been my home for the last two and a half days. I just finished packing, and I'm sitting here with Dominiak as I type out this blog. I can't believe Sunday came so quickly! It's been a whirlwind of activities, and my body would LOVE LOVE LOVE some Starbuck's right now to keep it going!

That being said, being at the Transplant Games has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life - and I've done my fair share of living, so that's saying quite a bit! Most of the highlights of my weekend relate to meeting many of the athletes and talking to them about their experiences and what brought them to this year's Transplant Games. It is inspirational to hear their stories of courage and perseverance, and it is a constant reminder to appreciate life in all of its multi-layered facets.

I had the pleasure of working at the swimming events both days (my friend Joey Dykstra would be proud - he's a lifetime swimmer and is now the women's swimming and dive coach at the University of North Texas!), and getting to know some of the participants.

Little mermaid swimmer

During Saturday's events, a number of the youngest transplant recipients competed, and it seemed especially poignant to see such dramatic scars on such young bodies. Despite what each child must have gone through to get to today's games - waiting, doctor's visits, stays at the hospital, and eventual surgery and recovery - it made my heart glad to see each kid behaving just like... a kid. How amazing is it to know that they are able to have a childhood through the grace and generosity of a living donor or donor family's gift? It made me laugh to see one young swimmer with "Eat My Bubbles" written on his back, and it made my eyes tear up to see another swimmer with "Thank you, Donor Family" written on his back.

I commiserated with the young athletes who just DIDN'T want to get in the pool, and cheered on the ones who jumped in, water wings and all. On the other end of the spectrum, we had swimmers all the way up in their 70s, poised on the starting blocks and raring to go. Imagine what a phenomenal place this world would be if we all dared to do what we didn't think was possible? Not only are some of these competitors grandmothers and grandfathers, they are also transplant recipients. So I guess any excuses I might have for not going to the gym just aren't going to cut it now, are they???

(To be continued... more from Wendy in a later blog, so look for it!)

Everyone's reading our blog - not just Phi Sig!

Computer guy better

Submitted by a bleary-eyed, but happy, Missy S.:

So this morning I woke up first of all the roommates, as I have done the past few days, to take my shower and get ready for the last day of events. I went out to the cafe in the hotel to grab my first cup of coffee and wake myself up since I only had 4 hours of sleep.

As I was walking back to our room, I looked into the computer room of the hotel and noticed a gentleman on the computer. I saw on the screen he was reading the Phi Sig blog!!! I was so excited to see an athlete reading it, I ran back to the room, grabbed my camera (trying not to wake the still sleeping Tara and Michele) and ran back to the computer room. I introduced myself and asked this gentleman if I could take a pic of him reading our blog, as I was sure Lisa and Katie would love to see that. He said absolutely, and then proceeded to explain he was told by one of our sisters his pic may make our blog. Sure enough I helped him find it. He is the buff athlete showing his guns with Caryn Jacquish.

Jack, Team Arkansas, introduced himself to me and told me his story. He had received a heart transplant over a year ago. What's more, his father also had a heart transplant and his uncle had needed one but did not receive one in time. I was touched by this man's outlook on life and how he embraced the energy and emotions of the games. He told me how he strives to make anyone he speaks to knowledgeable about organ donation and how grateful he is that we are here to spread the same message.

As a side note, Jack told me that he had brought a digital camera with him, but not knowing that regular batteries may not last long in the camera, he was not able to take many pictures. He was so happy to find our blog to see some of the events, and he is planning on sharing this with the hospital where he received his transplant. If anyone from the hospital or Jack is out there reading this, then here's a "hello" from the early morning Phi Sig, and I promise to send some pics to your daughter!!

Track and Field - Here we are!

Even though we have slept an average of 3 hours a night, our group is thrilled to be at track and field this morning! We took the early shift as many of our sisters are catching planes or jumping back in their cars to go back to their respective corners of the country.

Right now they have race walking going on. It must be popular because they have 3 hours of it scheduled! They are also going to be starting some of the field events soon.

Soon, a different Games will start half way across the world in China, but, I will tell you what, nothing can compare to the spirit and camaraderie at these Games!

Sent from my BlackBerry device from Cincinnati Bell Wireless

Posted last night as a comment, and worth reading now!

Just a little note to say hello to my sisters! I am so proud of all that you are doing to make the Games a wonderful experience for the athletes, donor families and living donors. You are truly demonstrating your servant leadership. Thank you on behalf of all of us who couldn’t make it this year! Enjoy the experience, and keep posting…I’m enjoying “hearing” about all that’s going on. :)

Alicia Scott
Supreme Council Director

Happy Birthday, Gretchen!

Holy cow!!! We all try to keep up on these things, but Gretchen Ehle, who is a devoted Phi Sig volunteer and who, along with her parents, was here in support of the Games because "Dad" is the famed "Randy" described ALL this weekend.... Well! Gretchen, we learned, is celebrating her XXth birthday (haha, you'll have to ask her yourself!). However, as "sisters who care," we will tell you it is a "significant" birthday -- and we love her all the more for showing up this important weekend!

She's beautiful as ever -- and even more so for being with us now!

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday TOOOoooo you, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR GRETCHEN!... (you are a hero for so many of us, and we love your fam-i-ly! Keep kickin' butt, Randy!)...

...happy birthday you!"

Larry Hagman: The "Major Anthony Nelson" photo...

Promised a photo, here it is...! Larry Hagman on the right (he was SUCH a "George Clooney" in his day, though we understand, collegian sisters of today, if that's not immediately evident), and his sidekick on the show, Bill Daily (Capt. Roger Healey) to his left....

'I hope I can teach people what I learned...'

Hi everyone! This is Tricia from Epsilon Zeta (Bloomsburg). I am writing from Bloomsburg right now, after an exhausting but amazing weekend in Pittsburgh. Not only was I have to meet tons of sisters who I have never gotten the opportunity to meet before this weekend, but I was also able to reconnect with sisters who I have met at other Phi Sig events. Aside from Phi Sigs, I was able to meet possibly the most inspirational people I have ever come across in my life: the athletes, living donors, and donor families at the 2008 Transplant Games.

When Ashley, Erika and I first arrived in Pittsburgh, after a 5-hour drive from Philadelphia, I had NO idea what to expect. When I first walked into the Expo at the Convention Center, I was truly blown away by the number of people who were there. After about 10 minutes of getting situated, Nash took Ashley and I under her wing and "taught" us all about trading pins (which Ashley and I took full advantage of and met tons of amazing people from all over).

Saturday, Ashley and I were able to meet some more amazing people at Swimming. Shout out to Team Arizona, Team Iowa, Team Philadelphia, and Team North Carolina. Athletes from these teams truly touched my heart, ranging from a man who had 2 heart transplants to twins who both had lung transplants, and who all won medals in their respective events.

Opening ceremonies was the most amazing part of my weekend and possibly my life. Words cannot describe what I felt seeing all of the athletes, living donors and donor families walk into the convention center, some with radiant smiles and others with tears of joy. A young boy sang Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying," in which he dedicated to his dad, I turned to Ashley and simply said, "That song will never be the same to me again!"

These weekend has definitely changed my life forever. I am sure everyone else there can say the same thing. In the car ride home, Ashley and I talked a little about how this weekend has made us seriously consider becoming living donors. After this weekend, I know how important it is for people to be educated in organ donation, and I hope I can help teach people about it somewhat.

My only regret for this weekend is that I wasn't able to stay longer! I hope to be able to make it to the games in 2010 as an alumnae, and hopefully then, more Epsilon Zetas will be able to attend!!

LITP, Tricia (EZ)

PS: GOOD LUCK SHARON HILL FROM EZ!! (I wish we could have been able to meet you!!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Junior Whopper is da bomb!

Kids bball2

FROM Missy, Community 3 Archon AND 3-on-3 basketball coordinator extraordinaire:

OK, so I am not going to say too much about today because it's after midnight, and I'm beyond exhausted. I just finished up my very, very, very long day scoring and timing for 3 on 3 basketball (swimming was in the morning). I can't wait to write my stories about today though. It was a great day! I have to give a brief comment about one of my favorite little athletes, Junior Whopper. Yes, you read that correctly. He has given himself the nickname "Junior Whopper" or "JW" for short. His name is Michael, and he is a basketball player on Team Philly. I will tell you more about this amazing little guy later, but if Team Philly reads this, give Michael a huge hug for me!

OK, since I am in Kim and Katie's room, and they are moving things around and putting stuff away (reminder it is now almost 12:30 am!). I am going to drag myself to bed. I have to wake up at 6 a.m. to get ready for track and field first thing in the morning, as I promised Stef H., our event lead, I would be there ready to scream and yell once more. I also have a 5-hour drive back across the state to Philadelphia tomorrow (today). Thank goodness Lisa R. will be with me, because I might otherwise have slept the whole way. OK, I will definitely write more later because I have a lot of great stories from today. Night!!!

Stef's blog... and time to go to bed

From Stefanie Hutchison, Foundation Director of Special Events:

I am so tired... have yet to blog, so here goes.... Today was spent at one of my favorite sports, ping pong/table tennis, as I noticed the hard-core players call it. I chased after ping pong balls for seven hours, yet had a blast and met so many wonderful athletes. Roger is my new friend from Team Florida. He competed in the over-70 crowd and almost got the Gold....

Spent the eve at basketball, what a crowd!

Just have to say that these athletes have made my time here.... This has been the most worthwhile experience! I cannot wait to go home and share what I did here, and what it all meant with my family. I will try and explain to my young sons what I did this weekend, yet I am very aware that they just won't yet understand all of this. Someday they will join me here, and hopefully we'll reunite with those whom I have met this weekend and my kids will get to hear firsthand why it was so important for mommy to be gone yet another weekend. Oh, but boys, I brought you a pin....

"Team Ehle" checking in

Good Sunday evening from Pittsburgh. My goodness, this weekend has been such a rewarding experience for me and my family. We have been awaiting this weekend for two years, when Phi Sigma Sigma was volunteering at the games in Louisville and my dad and I were preparing for our transplant surgery. (Nash even sent me a "transplant bear" from the games that helped me get through recovery!)

These games have really touched me in several different ways. Seeing so many Phi Sigma Sigma sisters cheering on the athletes and making connections with the donor families showed the true generosity and altruistic spirit of Phi Sigma Sigma and the Foundation. I've made connections with so many people this weekend, as did my entire family. We shared stories with donor families who were so happy to connect with recipients, other donor families and supporters. I got a huge hug from a Tennessee man who was "19 at heart" and 68 in body, and I was welcomed into the family of a bowler-recipient from Alaska.

Sharing this experience with all my families -- my biological family, my Phi Sig family and now my transplant family -- has been a phenomenal learning and bonding experience. I've made so many new connections this weekend and I can't wait to come back, and participate in 2 years!

All my love to our Phi Sigma Sigma Family,

Gretchen Ehle

Delayed at the airport, and amazed by what's happened...

From Caryn Jacquish, Supreme Council Director and former Grand Vice Archon, sent after leaving the Games Sunday night:

I am at the airport in Charlotte, NC, waiting for my delayed flight to West Palm Beach to actually take off. I am exhausted but so amazed at the energy that flows through the donors, donor families and recipients at the Transplant Games.

I have volunteered for Phi Sigma Sigma for 20 years, and I have seen commitment on many levels. But this is the first time I have seen so many women from so many different regions, both alumnae and collegiate, give everything they've got, representing the organization so well and doing it all because they wanted to contribute to a great cause. Absolutely amazing. So many athletes, donor families and living donors could not believe that the 125 women from Phi Sigma Sigma were from a "sorority." They could not say thank you enough. We were a big hit.

On a side note, thank you to everyone, especially the collegians from URI, who helped us get all (yes, we got them all) the team pins. My goal is to complete a shadow box featuring the pins and bring it with me to the next Supreme Council meeting. I am hoping it will travel to the LCs and Convention 2009 so that everyone can see it.

By the way, while I have been waiting here at the airport, I caught up on the blog and saw a mention of Larry Hagman in I Dream of Jeannie , which originally aired from September 1965 until May 1970. Here is a link to a short video...

(Editor's note: There's simply no way to describe just how many pins Caryn collected, or how tirelessly she "wheeled and dealed" with just about everyone to gather the remaining and most rare for the collection. Remember, each pin represents not only a "team" of organ-recipient athletes but also the spirit of that team in overcoming life-threatening obstacles to achieve health, happiness and the "normal" life that most of us take for granted. Some teams distributed hundreds, even thousands, of pins. Some teams were so small, they could only distribute a handful. Way to go, Caryn and everyone!)

From Julie: Sunday - table tennis - Aubrey - all great!

Sunday got off to a great start! As I got on the shuttle to go to the table tennis/ping pong competition, I quickly met two members from Team Upstate NY. Upon arriving at the convention center, there weren't too many Phi Sigs, but that quickly changed as the day got going.

I really enjoyed volunteering at table tennis because it allowed us to interact with the athletes and provided the opportunity for a more personal connection with athletes from many teams. I saw this happening with many of the Phi Sigs. As we touched base with one another, I kept hearing, "I met so and so from team such and such; they told me their story, and I can't believe everything they had to go through." It was really amazing.

I quickly met other members from Team Upstate and cheered them on throughout the day. One of the women who really touched me was Bonnie; I will share her story later on. On the shuttle, I met Dan and I didn't learn about Dan's story until later in the day. One of the other Phi Sigs had found out that he was the recipient of the Mickey Mantle Award in 2006 because he had endured the most to get to the games. Dan has undergone a double kidney transplant, a double bypass and suffered from thyroid cancer. Even with all of this, he was almost reluctant to tell us, as it was apparent that he was living in the moment and not looking back. He told us he has been coming to the games since 1996.

None of these athletes had a "woe is me" attitude. Instead, all cherish the gift that has been given to them. It was really incredible to see not only the camaraderie they had with their own teams and others. More than once throughout the weekend I heard what a "family" they all are.

One of the great highlights of the day was for all of the Phi Sigs to cheer on our fellow sister Aubrey from Team Indiana as she played table tennis with two other young women: one from Team Pittsburgh and the other from Team Illinois. Aubrey was a hit over the course of the weekend, not only with all of our sisters but also with the press. She made the front page of the local newspaper, was interviewed by channel 11 news and is highlighted on the U.S. Transplant Games website, which also makes mention of her Phi Sig sisters! Read the article here!

Aubrey 1 PSS Team Indiana
It was great to see Aubrey's enthusiasm as she sported her Phi Sig pins and wore her shirt that said "I Love Dad." I don't think any of the Phi Sigs will soon forget those they met and the personal stories they heard - but most of all they will not forget about our fellow Phi Sig sisters and their families who have had personal experiences with disease and organ transplantation.

I would also like to say "thank you" to all of our local Pittsburgh alum for preparing all of the food and hosting the Phi Sig picnic on Sunday evening. And a very special thank you to Janet Holland and her husband for graciously allowing the event to be at their home. It was an experience for all of us to make it up Janet's very steep driveway, but it just gave us one more thing to talk about over the course of the weekend.

Will be checking in again before the weekend is through.

Julie O.
Community 4 Archon

Message from the Gamma Taus...

The Gamma Tau chapter is here in full force and having a great time. According to the women:

"Being at the Games has made us more appreciative of the National Kidney Foundation and the awesome work that our very own Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation does. This experience makes us want to encourage everyone to look into being organ donors. Seeing how one person's gift of life can save so many others makes us proud to be an organ donor and a Phi Sig."
Sent from my BlackBerry device from Cincinnati Bell Wireless

B-ball - packed to the rafters, and busy as can be!

We are here at the basketball game and things are hopping! This place is packed and getting fuller by the minute. There are 6 courts going at one time and hundreds of athletes and spectators. There are kids and seniors and everyone in between!

Just when you think things can't get any better, they do! This is one cool event and I am so glad we are here!

Sent from my BlackBerry device from Cincinnati Bell Wireless

Kids bball
Playing ball - and overcoming life-threatening health obstacles to be... kids!

Bonnie's story is how Stafford and Kyle live on today...

Bonnie Team Upstate
~ Bonnie and Julie!

From Julie Orchard, Community 4 Archon:

I was fortunate to meet Bonnie from Team Upstate NY on Sunday. She told me that she was a double-kidney transplant recipient. The interesting thing I learned about kidney transplant is that they don't remove the old kidneys, but leave them in. So Bonnie actually has four kidneys.

She received her first kidney on Dec. 25, 2001. I couldn't believe it, what a gift.... Bonnie received her kidney as a direct donation from her daughter's cousin through marriage. Stafford, a 51-year-old man, had told his family that he wanted to be an organ donor before he was killed in a car accident. Bonnie has a rare blood type, so the chances of Stafford being a match were slim. After going through the testing, it turned out it was a match and Bonnie received her transplant.

For the first two weeks, the kidney was not functioning and Bonnie was being injected with 21 bags of antibiotic fluids. The doctors realized the kidney had an infection and probably had been traumatized in the accident. They started a new round of antibiotics and the kidney started functioning. After five weeks in the hospital Bonnie was released. The kidney functioned for three years, and then Bonnie went into kidney failure.

Bonnie had to wait a year before she was placed on the kidney transplant list. There was no way of knowing how long it would be because, as previously stated, Bonnie has a rare blood type. Bonnie started to take other medical measures while waiting for her transplant. Her brother had talked her into going down to Florida before the holidays. The night before Bonnie was to leave, she was all packed, had her bags in the car and was prepared for a 6:00 a.m. flight. She received a call saying there was a kidney, but she was told not to get her hopes up, as there were two people on the list ahead of her.

Bonnie's sister came over and they were caught up in the mix of emotions. They quickly started to repack Bonnie's bags from a vacation to going into the hospital. She received another call about doing testing, but was again told not to get her hopes up. Bonnie already had all of the preliminary tests done because of the other medical measures she had been ready to take. Bonnie got the call she was a match, the kidney was hers. She asked about the other two people on the list, but this information could not be revealed to her.

When Bonnie got to the hospital, she learned the donor had been just 17 years old. Why did a young man have to give his life so she could stay alive? She wondered, how was this fair? On Dec. 14, 2005, Bonnie received her second kidney transplant. After just six days in the hospital she was released.

Bonnie's Donor
Bonnie waited a year before she went through the correct means to contact her donor family. She did not hear anything back. At the 2006 games in Louisville, Bonnie was told that her donor family was there and that she would be meeting them. She wasn't prepared, but she was overwhelmed and overjoyed. She ran around the city that day getting gifts, not knowing how to thank them or how to share all of her thoughts; she was a nervous wreck and showed up half an hour early. They were not there at the scheduled appointment time and, initially, she thought they had changed their minds. But the Cronin family did end up coming, and it was an emotional meeting.

Their son Kyle hit a patch of black ice and been in a car accident. His mother is an EMT and was actually called to the scene.... Kyle, a junior EMT, had told his mother that he wanted to be an organ donor. He suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, so not all of his organs could be donated; however, both of his kidneys were viable and Bonnie received one of them. Kyle's family lives near Buffalo, NY and they have become a second family to Bonnie. In fact, they attended the games with her. Bonnie and the donor family are being featured in a documentary by Rochester Institute of Technology students.

Bonnie was just one of the people I met over the weekend, but her story really touched and moved me. I learned so much more about Bonnie - and I hope that I will see her at other NKF events in the Rochester area!

Joy, not suffering, motivates this mother from So-Cal...

Cat Wendy Lisa <-Cat, Wendy and Lisa!

From Cat Udell, as dictated to Lisa R., as sisters are preparing to go to dinner Sunday night:

A mother from Team So-Cal sat down beside me at swimming yesterday and told me the most amazing story. Can I share it with you? She was waiting for her 13-year-old daughter to swim at the competition and told me that she had two sons who are older -- one just graduated from college AND the other just returned from Iraq! Imagine that!

Her daughter who was swimming had had a heart transplant when she was 6; before that, she'd been perfectly healthy, so what a shock, right?.... Well, come to find out that girl's younger sister, now 10 years old, ALSO had a transplant at age 6. And so the younger sister was cheering the older sister right in front of me, and the mom said the 13-year-old had actually died on the surgical table (!!), but they resuscitated her after a minute.

Because of some logistical problems, she and her family had to register late for the Games, and so organizers put the 13-year-old in one of today's first events for her to qualify. But that meant she swam with men! Didn't phase her a bit; she was excited, not scared. So incredibly, genuinely excited.... So notable and noble in every way!

Hugs from perfect strangers who are like family


From Erin Halye of Gamma Sigma:

My time at the Transplant Games has been a truly rewarding experience. I have been fortunate to meet many heroic people. I began Saturday morning volunteering directing traffic at the raquetball area. Among so many athletes, I met a young woman who was gearing up for her event. What immediately caught my attention as she walked away was her shirt. It read: "My sister, my donor, my hero." It touched my heart and reminded me of all the heroes present at the games.

After leaving racquetball, I spoke to a man and his wife. As we arrived at the Convention Center, he turned to me, tightly embraced me, and simply said, "Thank you for giving your time". It was amazing to know that just being here and having fun could give back to all who inspire me.

Collective 'I Spy' Review, Part 2

Phi Sigs
We are legion - spread across the Pittsburgh river basin today at various venues for swimming, basketball, racquetball, bowling and more. We spy:

  • "Joanne, a keynote speaker from LC in Chicago two years ago and a transplant recipient, is here! While she was competing in the swimming competition, I was cheering in her lane. She told me she was real nervous, but when she looked up and saw our letters, she felt there was an 'angel' there, and she could go through with it!" ~ Emily of Zeta Nu
  • Kristy from NKF and the coordinator of tonight's upcoming basketball tourney, asking about the "amazing two Phi Sigs who were here two years ago! Can we have them again tonight? Can you all be like that?" (Mystery girls, reveal yourselves!)
  • Aubrey leaving table tennis with a smile, even if she didn't win. "I'm here to support the cause and have fun," she said. Was interviewed by Channel 11 for tonight's news!!!
  • Tall professor-like guy stopping at blog site and saying, "We haven't gotten rid of you guys yet?" Haha, we are LEGION, as previously started. (Also overheard from woman earlier: "I definitely met some of these girls earlier," and looking around says, "but these are none of them!)
  • Emily of Zeta Nu (Slippery Rock) smacking Lisa R.'s leg and foot with abandon at the blogging site to kill a fly that's biting her and won't leave!

Eat bubbles

  • Swim races for the littlest kids, some with swimmie wings and one with "eat my bubbles!" painted on his back!
  • Martha from Beta Pi running like crazy to get away from the well-meaning but perhaps a little overzealous clown. (Her sisters say she definitely does NOT have a sticker from said clown that says he hugged her.) ...More later!

Pam of UM-Dearborn - you're here with us in spirit!

Posted by the sisters of Zeta Omega, outsite the Table Tennis competition:

When Pam first joined our chapter in 2005, she said that one of the main factors that drew her to Phi Sig was our affiliation with the National Kidney Foundation, because she is on the kidney transplant waiting list. With one of our chapter sisters being on the list, this makes NKF and the Transplant Games especially important to the Zeta Omega chpater. Being able to have the experience of volunteering at the games, meeting people who have had transplants, and the donor families has been very inspirational. This year in addition to our normal rock-a-thon that we hold to raise money for the foundation, we would also like to hold an organ transplant awareness week during the week of the rock-a-thon. We hope that this will help to raise awareness in our area and that our sister will find her match someday soon.

Meghan Moore, Sarah Spada, Diana Cameron and Melissa Gallina
Zeta Omega Chapter, University of Michigan-Dearborn


We just got to the bowling alley and things here are great! The athletes are awesome and there are people of all ages participating.

One of the cutest stories is that the oldest athlete and the youngest athlete are competing together in bowling mixed doubles. This is truly an event full of spirit and fun!
Sent from my BlackBerry device from Cincinnati Bell Wireless

Gamma Gamma alum gets roped into blogging (haha)


Hello everyone! My name is Amy Shultz and I am an alumna of Gamma Gamma, Clarion University of PA! I found Lisa R. sitting on the floor in the corner with her computer!! She has now left me to go on a lunch break. I am so excited to have everyone in Pittsburgh, my hometown area! Being here at the transplant games has made the NKF come to life for me as well! We raise money as sisters but I don't think everyone truly realizes what we actually contribute.

For those of you getting lost in Pittsburgh I feel for you. I have lived in the area all of my life and still can't drive in this city!! I'm so proud that I am actually at the Convention Center and got here by myself!!

Homeward Bound Q&A with E-rock and the EZ girls

(As dictated by Erika Hess to Lisa Romero from a cell phone):

I'm driving home now, just approaching Somerset. The two collegians I drove out here crashed out asleep in my car within 5 minutes of starting this 5-hour trek across the state. Lisa took pity on me, knowing it will be a lonely 5 hours, and called for my phoned-in blog entry.

(Note from Lisa: Erika, whose nickname is "E-rock," is driving safely!)

I'm listening to Outkast, "Heyya!" ...... Whoa, THAT woke 'em up! (laughter, unintelligible noises). Ashley from the back seat says, "Heelllllo Chris!" (Ashley truly admires Chris Klug.)

(Erika asking the collegians a question:) "What did you think of your time there?"
Answer: "Humid but faaaaantasic!" This weekend, they really wished their Epsilon Zeta sisters could have been with them to witness the impact of Phi Sig in the real world.

Safe travels to EZ - and all the sisters on their way home!

Just WHO is this Larry Hagman guy anyway???

Alright, I am officially "mature." Not old, never old. Phi Sigs age gracefully, and we do so, in part, by acknowledging that today's new gen of sisters may have no clue what the cultural icons from "back in the day" are. And that's OK, because I never heard "Kissed a Girl" either (which, if you didn't know, is No. 1 on the Billboard charts today). So, as part of my job as a mentor to the youthful among you, here is the answer to a burning question many of you have this morning:

"Who IS Larry Hagman? Who is that guy who was standing up and talking at last night's opening ceremonies, and acting like he was some kind of celebrity?"

The short answer is, back in the day, the question wasn't "Who is Larry Hagman?" but rather, "Who shot JR?"

Larry Hagman as JR Ewing is one of the enduring cultural icons from the 1980s -- and the lead star of the long-running TV evening soap/drama, Dallas. OK, OK, I told a tall tale last night... he was not "officially" voted one of the world's sexiest men of all time back then.... But I personally knew many a housewife who believed it. He was, however, one of the all time villians on TV, and quite the ladies' man in the show. ... Years of "colorful living," shall we say, resulted in the need for a liver transplant. It changed his life, and his view on life, forever after. And he's been a friend to organ recipients and donors, and one of the strongest advocates of the NKF, ever since.

Here's what he looked like in his halcyon days - the dashing, dastardly JR:


Maybe later, I can drum up a photo of Larry when he was in I Dream of Jeannie. ... Larry's 77 years old - but to me, he'll always be the debonair Major Anthony Nelson.

Lisa R.

Iota Epsilon Says Hi!


Hello to everyone from the Transplant Games in Pittsburgh! We have been having a great time cheering on all of the athletes and meeting some amazing people. From the very young to the senior set, all of the athletes, living donors, and donor families have shown us the courage and spirit that makes this event so great. We cannot wait for the next games and look forward to an equally enriching experience.


Katie Wall
Iota Epsilon

Aubrey's Blog~!

Kokomo girls

From Aubrey Birden, Games athlete and Phi Sig sister from IE Chapter, Kokomo (pictured far right):

Hello my fellow sisters!!!!

I am having such an AMAZING time here in Pittsburgh. So far this weekend, I had the pleasure of being part of Team Indiana for the first time, meeting Mr. Larry Hagman again, and the Chairman of the NKF, Tom M. I was also asked to be interviewed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company which was very touching and fun~! Today, I will be competing in Table Tennis; the following days, I will be playing badminton, and bowling. I hope to go for gold, but I'm really here just to have fun and support my team, Phi Sig and, of course, organ donation. I think the best thing that has happened so far was meeting Larry. He is such an inspiration, I was even able to sit at his table and talk to him the whole reception!

I hope that all my sisters who came this year are having a great time volunteering. It really, really means a lot to me and all the athletes! I hope that the next games, even more of my sisters will be coming. It is a very unique experience! I love you all and want to say thank you soooooooo much for all your love, support, and sisterhood. And thank you to Foundation for doing everything you do for me! You all are such an inspiration and I look up to all of you!!! I LOVE YOU!~!! PSLM~!!!!

****~~~Aubrey Birden~~~***
Chapter Iota Epsilon

Love from Kappa Chapter !!



This is Cassie from Kappa (George Washington U.) chapter at the Transplant Games with Diya, Hallie, Sharon and Emily. We're all having a great time. We found the swimming competition to be particularly meaningful as when one swimmer fell behind, other competitors who had already finished the race would rally around the slower swimmer, who was a lung transplant recipient, encouraging him to finish the race. This was truly moving and seemed to embody the spirit of togetherness that is so present here at the Games.

Shout out to all the girls living in the house this summer!!!!


Where we are... (helping athletes chase their dreams of GOLD, that's where!)


If you're watching our movements today, there may be small "lulls" in posting blogs from time to time. A good many Phi Sigs are already, or soon will be, meandering their ways home. Those of us who are left are hard at work volunteering at the Games. ... Got a call from Missy this morning to marshall the troops and send 'em to swimming, so we have plenty of sisters to cover the lap counting and the cheering! Others are headed to the Convention Center, and ping pong, basketball, bowling and a kazillion other activities. Today is, as Katie blogged, a busy, busy day -- made more so by our slightly dwindled numbers.

Plenty of us are here through tomorrow.... So stay tuned as we blog throughout the day to keep you up on the latest and greatest -- everything from what's happening in our lives, to shoutouts, and more!

Phi Sig makes the front page!

Woo hoo! Aubrey Birden, one of THREE Phi Sig sisters competing in the Games, is featured smack dab on the front of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette as part of Team Indiana!


You may not be able to see the letters on her shirt, but she's wearing her Phi Sig pride as a pin, and on every inch of that beautiful smiling face! Good luck, Aubrey! Do us proud!

Phi Sig 5K runners - early to rise and run like the wind!

Two Phi Sig volunteers, Emily Steakley (a membership manager at Headquarters) and collegian Ashley Ferrentino (Epsilon Zeta Chapter at Bloomsburg U.) took to the streets early, early, early Sunday to participate as non-athletes in the 5K fun run open to everyone!

They did GREAT! Ashley ran it in about 23 minutes, and Emily in 27 -- far outstripping the majority of the "competition." Which, we hear, pleased Lisa R. to no end (seeing as how she was their go-fer girl the day before, registering them for the event)!

Congrats, girls! Way to show your Phi Sig athletic side and pride!

Good night... err, morning, Pittsburgh and beyond!

It's approaching 3:30 a.m. ... We sisters are finally clearing out of the cafe downstairs in the Residence Inn where, in just a couple of hours, we suppose they'll be putting out breakfast. ... Haha, the nice manager who tolerated our tired, but bubbly and talkative Phi Sig selves so well through these wee hours of the morning just passed our table and opened the kitchen, presumably to start making the food! Where did the hours go since the opening ceremonies?! Holy cow, when DO we have to be up in the morning???

We could have spent the night exploring the town, maybe. Or we could have spent it upstairs watching TV, or who knows what. There are a ton of Phi Sigs in Pitt, some 120+ strong (almost as large as Team Philadelphia, with 140+ members - the largest group of athletes here!). We wanted, instead, to be a part of the blogging experience - to help you to see and hear what we see. The sisterhood, the emotional highs, the mundane and the miraculous.

Our "first shift" of early-rising sisters should be blogging in a few. Here's to a GREAT NEW DAY and a great way to welcome the athletic events to come.

Signing off, 3:41 a.m. from Pittsburgh, Pa.!

Questions about Games in 2010

Q: Where are the Games in 2010?
A: Word is that the lucky host site is in Wisconsin. Not 100% sure, though. The Transplant Games Web site doesn't appear to be posting that info right now, and probably won't until the Games conclude. Kim's asleep. Katie H. is asleep. Everyone (that is, every smart sister, haha!) is asleep. But the iReporter must commit to paper, or at least to the Internet, what memory may forget tomorrow! So, long-answer-long, once we get this confirmed, we'll let you know.

Q: If three Phi Sig sisters are in the Games, and there are likely other sisters and family members whose lives have been touched by this issue (such as the Ehles), is it possible to create a "Team Phi Sig" in 2010?
A: As the Beach Boys say, "Wouldn't it be nice?" Hey, maybe we can check into it! After all, what are the chances that three of our sisters (two of whom we weren't in direct contact with for purposes of this event, and who happened to see our shirts everywhere) are participating in the Games already? This event is quickly becoming an important way to galvanize an even greater appreciation for our long-time philanthropy, the National Kidney Foundation!

Q: Will Phi Sig again be a part of the Games?
A: Stay tuned for the answer to this one! One thing is sure... we connect with this event in every way -- and the people here, like one big family, have embraced us as a part of them as surely as if we'd always been here. These Games have been going on since 1990, we're told. And from what we're hearing, they keep getting better and better!

"She finished last, but first in my heart..."

Dear Sisters,

My experience in Pittsburgh has been, so far, fantastic. One of the jobs we had today was to cheer the swimmers in the games. In order to do so, I had to use a numbered board which informs the competitors about their progress. There, I met a woman named Nancy. She finished last, but in my heart she finished first. She showed so much enthusiasm, and even though she was tired, she refused to give up. Later, she told me how thankful she was of my presence there. We hugged goodbye. =)


Diana Dellacava
Beta Pi Chapter @ Queens College

Count 'em... THREE Phi Sig athletes in the Games!

OK... BIG news alert.... Arriving here, we thought we'd be cheering on Aubrey Birden as the lone Phi Sig participating as an athlete at this year's Games.

Good news! Including her, there are actually three sisters competing in Pittsburgh! The other two include:

  • Julie Riggi, of Gamma Xi (Widener), who had a double lung transplant in 2004, and
  • Sharon Hill, of Epsilon Zeta (Bloomsburg University), who had a liver transplant just two short years ago.
All our athletes are in the peak of health, as a testament to the incredible, undeniable impact of organ donation/transplantation. And Julie and Sharon were thrilled to find us here! Look for more information on them soon.... For now, as we wrap up tonight's iReports, we wish all three of our sisters GOOD LUCK in the Games. We are rooting for you, and you are an inspiration to us all!

Julie's blog - 'I'm happy local chapters can participate!'

From Julie Orchard, Community 4 Archon:

When the Foundation and Phi Sigs volunteered in Louisville two years ago, and we then found out the games would be held in Pittsburgh next, I was really excited to learn that they would be held in my community. Being Community Archon for Community 4, which encompasses western NY and western PA, meant that it would be a great opportunity not only for all Phi Sigs to participate, but for those chapters in my community to participate!

I was really happy to learn how many women from the community would be attending -- but even more than that, it was thrilling to see the number of total Phi Sig volunteers here increase to over 100.

At the Louisville games two years ago, Pittsburgh had seemed so far off. Before I knew it, the countdown was on -- and everyone was getting more and more excited to get to the games.

Well we're here. After getting off to a late start because I couldn't get away from work, we finally made it on Friday night. Unfortunately we missed the grand walk across the bridge for the Pirates Game, but we made it in for the last 3 innings of and watched a fantastic fire works display. Upon leaving the game, we were lucky enough to run into Lisa Wallace and Kim Frey to tag along for a ride back to the hotel. It ended up being a bit of a crazy adventure desperately needing gas and having difficulty with the GPS system, but we did eventually get back to the hotel. The rest of the alum from the Delta Sigma Chapter-SUNY Brockport made it in by 1:00a.m., making us the largest alum chapter delegation attending the Games.

Participating Saturday at the expo, swimming and the opening ceremony really gave us our first taste of what the Transplant Game experience means. Trading pins at the expo provided us the first opportunity to meet the participants that are here. Cheering the athletes on at swimming truly makes you appreciate the importance of their participation in the games and showed us one of the many reasons why the games are so important for all.

The most moving part of the day was during the evening at the opening ceremonies. Not only were we able to see all of the athletes participating but we all saw the impact of the living donors and donor families. Beyond this we heard some extremely touching songs and we were graced and moved by only a couple of the very many personal experiences all of these participants have had.

I'm really proud to see all of the Phi Sig women who have made a point to make it to Pittsburgh to live the ideals of the organization and to support the Foundation and volunteer at the games. I am really looking forward to what the rest of the weekend has in store.

"We're really doing something here, girls!"

Hi Phi Sigs! It’s Martha from Beta Pi here to talk about the day’s events. It was AMAZING to meet all the teams at the Expo this morning, and even more so to help out during the swimming events today. But what really took my breath away were the opening ceremonies… there were so many stories, and so many people. The Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation had great seats right up front, and when we turned around, it looked like almost every seat was full. We’re really doing something here, girls!

On a side note, the Beta Pi’s discovered (after other Phi Sigs warned us) that Garmins and other GPS devices really aren’t working very well here. After leaving the Opening Ceremonies, we somehow got lost and ended up on the other side of the river. I admit, I’ve only had my license for a week and before today I’ve only driven in areas that I know very well, so as cautious as I might have been this was bound to happen sometime. We stopped and asked directions and got back to the Convention Center (near it, anyway) and found our way to the hotel from there.

Tomorrow should be a blast- we’re helping out with bowling, one of my favorites! I can’t wait!


A BIG Day Tomorrow

Faithful blog readers -- we have a BIG day tomorrow! We are going to be volunteering at swimming, racquetball, table tennis, bowling AND 3 on 3 basketball! I think just about every person in Pittsburgh will know that Phi Sig is here and doing some awesome work.

Our volunteers are so pumped to cheer on the athletes tomorrow and are looking forward to our awesome volunteer assignments. Today, at the swimming competition, our volunteers had the honor of awarding ALL of the medals. Last year, Chris Klug, Larry Hagman and Ann Lopez awarded the medals. Needless to say, we are in some famous company!

One more very exciting note about tomorrow...the Pittsburgh Alumnae Chapter is hosting our entire delegation for a cookout. We are so grateful for their amazing hospitality and generosity and can't wait to post some pictures from our cookout!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dan from Team Philly? You are SO my hero!

From: Missy Spishak, Zeta Kappa Alum ’01, Community Archon 3

Alright, it's midnight and I’m eating Teddy Grahams and writing to tell you about the rest of our day at the games. One thing that happened today was we met an amazing athlete, Dan from Philadelphia. Dan was in the 500 freestyle race in the swimming competitions and seemed to be struggling to finish. He had 8 laps to go and needed some encouragement.

DanEvery Phi Sig at the games stood at the end of his row along with his four children and wife and cheered as loud as we possibly could. One of the other swimmers in the lane next to him started to swim alongside him to help him along and then after 2 laps the other three swimmers who were done came to the other lane next to him and all four of those men swam alongside Dan to get him through his laps. I have never experienced such an amazing thing in my life! Needless to say I had tears in my eyes and when I looked over at our sisters they all had tears in their eyes. It was awesome. I just saw Dan in our hotel elevator with his family and told him how great it was to watch him compete today and he was so thankful to have us there. Good luck in the 5K tomorrow Dan!!!

Team Iowa
I also made friends with Team Iowa. They are a really fun team and have a ton of spirit. I was so happy to cheer on their athletes and get to know them. Good Luck Team Iowa!!!

In other news of the day I have made a determination that even though we have a plethora of GPS systems among us, each and every one of us that has drove on the Pittsburgh roads has been lost. The GPSes do NOT understand when there is a detour, road construction or the fact that when it tells us to make a right turn in Pittsburgh and you go to turn right there are 3 roads to choose from and no signs! Yes -- even I who grew up in Western PA and frequently visited Pittsburgh got lost!

OK, so with little sleep, no voice left and hands which are sore from clapping, I am going to go rest and heal so I can do this again tomorrow! Chat then.

Today's vote for Phi-Significant Sister!


From the cafe downstairs at the Residence Inn, where most of our sisters are staying:

Shout out to Hillary Paul, Delta Zeta sister, for being a fabulous cheerleader at today’s swimming competition.

She rocked the house! She had us doing the wave and just brought our energy up tenfold. Thanks Hillary! For being you, and for making us love you even more, you've been spontaneously voted today’s "Miss Phi-Significant Sister!"

Wayne Meyers of Team Pitt - Phi Sig <3s you!

Here's a joke from Wayne Meyers, an all-around great guy and heart transplant recipient on Team Pittsburgh. I know he's from Pitt because our women fairly accosted him (no word of lie, and in the nicest possible way one can be accosted, of course) for the scads of fabulous Heinz ketchup and pickle pins he was distributing early today. (This city is home to the famous food brand, BTW.)

Wayne stopped by later, sans pins, to introduce his wife Mari Jo and chat again, and it was then he confessed he's a "chicken addict." Loves all things chicken! Not to eat, necessarily - but more like stuff around the house, things to collect. Like jokes, for example. So, Wayne's favorite joke in the world is about chickens, no surprise.

Question: "Why does a chicken coop have two doors?"
Answer: "Because if it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan!"
(Get it? Coop-coupe... as in a car? Clev-errr, Dan!)

Made me laugh. He is just a great guy. And you know, it occurred to me that, if not for his lifesaving surgery, I probably wouldn't have heard that joke, or perhaps met Mari Jo, and maybe the women of Phi Sig wouldn't have a story to tell about how they swarmed the "ketchup" or "pickle" pin guy at our booth (which he fairly loved, lemme tell you!).

Connections.... Life. Is. About. Them. Gotta love it!

Ooo. Here's Wayne's Web site:

Tell him thanks for the pins!

Team Aubrey!

Above is a picture of Aubrey with her chapter sisters from Kokomo. We are super excited because we get to cheer on Aubrey at table tennis tomorrow.

Tonight at the opening ceremonies Aubrey got to carry one of the team Indiana banners. Look for some more pictures soon!
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Collective 'I-Spy Report' of the Opening Ceremonies

Chris Klug

OK, we are back from the opening ceremonies. We spied...

  • The fearless, fabulous abs of our new friend Randy Ehle, Gretchen's dad - who, two years ago, received one of her kidneys. When prompted by Larry Hagman, Randy and thousands of people proudly "showed" their scars.... Randy's a "Phi Sig Dad," and he's got the shirt to prove it! (He makes them, and they're awesome.) We've all sort of adopted him. To us, he isn't Mr. Ehle. He's "Raaaaandy! Whoop whoop!"
  • Erin, the lone sister from Gamma Sig chapter, clapping for every single person who emerged from the tunnel onstage as every team was introduced. I kid you not, she clapped for 10 full minutes! Im-press-ive!
  • the ("honey") Chris Klug, Olympic bronze medal snowboarder and a liver recipient, who was not only the epitome of a gentleman by graciously allowing us to take multiple pics with him, but also quite the "hunk," as Nash so aptly puts it. And Missy. And Wendy. And Ashley and Tricia and Katie, and so on.... Someone here at the table said Lisa and Sandy may also agree with this assessment, but clearly, their husbands are too handsome for them to make comparisons! (OK, Dave and Steve! That should make ya'll happy!)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Herschede - and the many times Katie had to hear sisters tell her visiting parents, "We love your daughter!" (Thanks, Katie, for all you've done to make this event a huge success for us....)
  • Hundreds of "terrible towels" -- a shout out for you diehard Steelers' fans.
  • Lots and lots of tissues, for the tenderhearted among us. ... Great stories, told well, have the power to move mountains and make lifelong memories. We heard plenty tonight.... Sisters were literally passing Kleenex up and down 15 or so rows in the front of the opening ceremonies - seriously!
  • Kim and Sandy's names in bright lights at the front of the convention hall for all to see! How cool was that?
    More soon!

Katie's parents

Mr. & Mrs. Herschede and sisters -- oh, and here are some classic photos of our sister Katie, Transplant Games coordinator, provided by her parents, we presume.... We love you, Kay-tay!

Katie as kid

Opening Ceremonies!

We're here and blogging live! They just started the parade of teams and it is amazing to watch all of these folks parade in with their team flags.

Phi Sig was recognized at the beginning of the program for our support and we got huge applause from the audience.

The atmosphere is electric and we are excited to see what is next.
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Great dinner - thanks to our donors!

Thank you to the many donors who made tonight's dinner possible! We grabbed a great dinner just before heading to the Opening Ceremonies. More on the Ceremonies soon!
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Dinner at college
P.S. Rumor has it some of our own Phi Sigs made EXTRA chocolate pudding when we ran out.... We are ladies who apparently cannot get enough chocolate, haha!