Saturday, July 31, 2010

One of the most touching moments of tonight's celebration of life...

IF THERE WAS A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE after tonight's singing performance by Holly Campbell at the Opening Ceremony, we can't imagine it....

Holly and her husband Andrew made the difficult decision nearly three years ago to donate their infant son's heart after he stopped breathing during a nap. The recipient was Beckham Scadlock, an attendee at this year's Games.

Both families met for the first time just hours before the Opening Ceremony!

As Holly sang the touching, lovely song "For Good" (from the hit musical Wicked) for the audience, there were audible sobs from around the packed arena. Pictures of her son Jacob, affectionately known as "Jake," were displayed throughout her song.

Afterwards, the Campbells and Scadlocks (who were sitting right in front of Phi Sig sisters!) gathered together in the front, hugging and tearful, as the crowd responded to their story and Holly Campbell's performance with thunderous applause.

EDITOR'S NOTE (8/14/10): We later learned that both mothers had sung "For Good" to their sons... Holly before her son passed away and Kim Scadlock just after her son's heart transplant - and neither realized it until after they connected. Read more in this media story.

U.S. Olympic snowboarder and torch bearer Chris Klug officially 'starts' the Games

SHOWN HERE: Perennial Phi Sig friend, U.S. Olympic snowboarder and liver-transplant recipient CHRIS KLUG as he lit the flame officially kicking off the 2010 Transplant Games at the Opening Ceremony.

Chris, who has created his own foundation to support organ donation and transplantation, is always gracious and lovely to Phi Sig women - whom he knows are big-time advocates here at the Games!

A shoutout for Team Pittsburgh - our friends from 2008!

PHI SIGS CHEERED LOUD AND LONG for our friends from the last host site of the U.S. Transplant Games, Team Pittsburgh, as they entered the arena during tonight's Opening Ceremony! (Of course, we believe the sister who cheered the loudest was none other than Games Coordinator Missy Spishak, who calls that area home!)  P.S. Check out the "terrible towels" - a fan staple for those who cheer on the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Celebrating Team Wisconsin at the Opening Ceremony: Thanks for being the host state!

WE LOVE BEING GUESTS IN BEAUTIFUL MADISON, so Phi Sigs really cheered tonight for Team Wisconsin - who helped host and welcome athletes from all over the country!

Check us out! Major sponsor of the Games, up on the big screen for all to see!

SEEN AT TONIGHT'S OPENING CEREMONY (and met with enormous cheers - not just from our 80+ sister-volunteers in attendance, but also the thousands of people either participating in or attending the Games):

The Phi Sigma Sigma is a major sponsor, right up there with organizations like the world-famous Mayo Clinic!

Aubrey Birden - our Phi Sig sister and an athlete at the Games!

CHECK IT OUT! What a great photo of Phi Sig's own AUBREY BIRDEN (Iota Epsilon - Indiana University at Kokomo) during tonight's exciting Opening Ceremony, when dozens of teams from across the United States were formally welcomed to the U.S. Transplant Games!

Aubrey is an athlete on Team Indiana, and she'll be competing in the 5K cycle race on Sunday, badminton on Monday and bowling on Tuesday. Good luck, Aubrey!

Hi from the Foundation Board as we head to Opening Ceremonies...


It's obvious from this pic that Foundation President Katie Herschede, newly elected Vice President Marianne Cohen and Director/Phi Sig Grand Archon Pamela Downey are having the time of their lives at this year's Transplant Games!

We're off to the Opening Ceremonies. Look for more reports soon!

(P.S. Wish you were here! Missing our Board Directors Kim Hildred, Judith Distler, Judy Slater, Liz Rodriguez, Aggie Malter, former Director/current Consultant Michelle Soucy and Director of Development Erin Leahey.)

The story of Joe: A policeman who gave the ultimate gift of life

By Lisa Romero
For the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation

NOTHING WILL BRING YOU TO YOUR EMOTIONAL KNEES FASTER than the story of a mother and father who lost not just a young son, cut down in the prime of life, but a role model for the entire family and community. The story of a man whose love of helping others knew no bounds - whose life ultimately helped save more than 50 people.

Joe Chairez
Shortly before police officer JOE CHAIREZ, 24, of Sacramento, Calif., suffered a fatal aneurysm and died in 2000, he had asked his parents to promise that if anything should ever happen, they'd honor his decision to be an organ donor.

This should have come as no surprise: He was elected president of his high-school class and, later, student body president... had always been a high achiever who viewed life as something you could never take for granted.

His father, Jess Chairez, held nothing back from his son: He told him he'd never permit it. "There was no way," was all Jess would say in explaining, shaking his head. You got the sense that Jess struggled with a decision that impacts so many donor families.

Jess and Theresa Chairez
That ended when the doctors told him and his wife Theresa that Joe had a 1% chance of survival.

"I went to God, and I prayed," Jess told sisters with tears in his eyes. "I said, what should I do? And He told me, 'If you honor your son by doing this, you'll honor me.' And I knew it's what Joe wanted, it was the right thing to do."

Jess and Theresa - who now view the Transplant Games athletes and living donors as a second family - have never regretted that decision. That was doubly true when they were invited to hear the beating heart of their son in the transplant patient who received it.

"You need to know," Jess said, "that my son saved four lives that day." What's more, as a regular blood donor since the age of 16, Joe had also helped save the lives of at least 42 other lives, as his parents were informed by the local blood bank after his passing.

"What you are doing here today - supporting the Games, helping people understand what it's all about... well, I can't thank you enough," Jess said. "I'm so proud of you. Even though we've only just met, I know you. You're a part of everything here. You make a difference."

Joe donated to Foundation all five of the pins he has had specially created in his son's memory - and distributed to athletes since 2000. (We'll post them as a collection later tonight.) And he wants to keep in touch.

"God has different answers for all of us," Jess said, explaining that donor families have a difficult burden in deciding what to do. But he's glad he heard the "call" of his son.

And we're so glad the Chairez family stopped to share their story.

Warmly welcoming a Phi Sig Foundation friend - and hearing a story of true 'sisterly' love!

By Lisa Romero
For the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation

JoAnn Villanueva and
her sister Suzanne Ruff
HERE'S TO FAMILIAR FACES! Recognize the woman on the left? That's JOANN VILLANUEVA, a speaker at our Leadership Conference in Chicago a couple of years ago, who kindly joined us during a Foundation dinner to discuss her experiences as a kidney transplant recipient.

Today, she approached Phi Sigma Sigma sisters at the Expo to ask if we remembered her - and to let us know she was here in Madison with her sister SUZANNE RUFF, a living donor and the author of a new, celebrated book about organ donation. (It's been endorsed by none other than Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent.) "The Reluctant Donor" describes how Suzanne dealt with a range of emotions as she worked through the process of deciding to donate a kidney to JoAnn.

"It's a book about doubt, about wanting to do something in your heart to help someone you love, but being afraid - and then overcoming that," JoAnn explained. Part of the reason for Suzanne's reluctance was a fear she might need her extra kidney, as many women in her family have been afflicted by the same debilitating disease (i.e., polycystic kidney disease, also known as PKD).

Because of Suzanne's courage and loving donation, JoAnn says she's been given another chance at life - and she made the most of it this week as a member of the Games' Team Illinois, competing in the swimming event!

"It's great to be here," JoAnn said. "And it's so great to see your women here, too!" For our part, we're so glad JoAnn remembered us - and we'll look forward to seeing her at upcoming Games!

We're now ready for snowboarding season!

Foundation Directors Pam and Marianne got the chance to hang with liver transplant-recipient and Olympic snowboarder Chris Klug. He is seriously one of the nicest people in the world and even offered up some tips for the winter sports season! Next stop is the opening ceremony!

Pins are the currency of goodwill at the Games - no question!

EACH YEAR THAT THE FOUNDATION has helped sponsor the Transplant Games, we have come armed with commemorative pins - and LOTS of them. It's tradition for teams at the Games to swap pins, and the Phi Sig ones are among the hottest commodities going.

Here's a pic of this year's version (Foundation President Katie Herschede says we've given away 3,000!):

Here are the pins collected last year, posted attractively on a map provided by Phi Sigma Sigma Fraternity Director Caryn Jacquish:

Here's the large map where we asked athletes and their teams to post this year's pins - which Foundation will proudly display for Phi Sig sisters to see for themselves in the future:

More Patches of Love from the quilts at Monona Terrace

FOR EVERY FACE ON THE PATCHES OF LOVE QUILTS made to memorialize the donors who, in losing their lives, saved someone else, there is a transplant recipient with a story to share who will be forever grateful. ... It's one of the reasons the quilt project is part of the Games: to remind everyone of those who are here in spirit - whose gift of life made it possible for the athletes to be here among us.

Honorary Phi Sigs - celebrating the men among us!

WITH THOUSANDS OF ATHLETES CONVERGING on the Phi Sig Foundation booth at the U.S. Transplant Games, the men among us (here as friends) heeded the call - and helped our sisterhood spread the word about our philanthropic mission while handing out highly collectible commemorative pins, too! (More about the pin craze later....)

At front: TKE's STEVE ROBERTS (Pryranis and Life Loyal Teke of the Theta Iota Chapter at Northern Michigan University), and Foundation advocate Missy Ricketts' husband JON BARROWS (who drove her 8 hours to get here and be part of the Games). THANKS, GUYS!

Foundation President supports the swimmers

Katie Herschede, Foundation President, joins the crowd cheering for the swimmers doing the 500-yard freestyle. Swimming is one of the Transplant Games' most popular competitions - and it's one Phi Sigs have been volunteering at since we began sponsoring the event in 2006!

'I did it for my Dad!'

MEET ALEX LOPEZ of Chicago, son of Alex Sr., who is competing in the U.S. Transplant Games racquetball tourney this weekend and is a kidney transplant recipient. Young Alex wants you to know the National Kidney Foundation ROCKS, and he's got the head to prove it:

More from swimming!

Foundation Director Marianne Cohen (Delta Beta - University of Rochester) and alumnae development task force chair Lynn Coffey (Delta Lambda) watching the swimmers. Dozens of Phi Sigs are volunteering in that event, now underway!

Cheering on the swimmers

Some of collegians just made their way over to the University of Wisconsin to watch the swimmers make some waves!

Welcome to the Phi Sig Transplant Games blog!

NEW TO THIS BLOG? We are Phi Sigma Sigma, and we're here in Madison, Wisc., volunteering for the PHI SIGMA SIGMA FOUNDATION - which, for nearly 40 years, has supported the National Kidney Foundation, host sponsor of the U.S. Transplant Games!

We are here to volunteer at the Games, to cheer on transplant-recipient athletes in this biennial Olympic-style event, to hear and share the stories of the living donors and donor families. And we're blogging live - to help spread the message of the live-saving impact of organ donation and transplantation. As many as 20 people a day die waiting for transplants - many of which can be shared through living donors.

The Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation is a proud sponsor of the U.S. Transplant Games - and has been for the past three events (held previously in Pittsburgh and Louisville). Learn more at

And if you support this important cause, and wish to help the women of Phi Sigma Sigma do the same, visit our Foundation page to make a donation today!

We're working hard to represent you here at the Games!

Missy with her life-giving coffee!
Greetings from the Phi Sig Games Coordinator! OK, this is the first chance I've actually had to sit down and write some thoughts about the Games.... I am having such an incredible time - I love the atmosphere here! There is so much energy, and it's such an incredible celebration of life.

I am currently sitting at the Expo booth, where I've had the chance to talk to organ recipients as well as donor families. Every story gives me chills. It's only Saturday afternoon, and we have been so busy - whether at the Expo, cheering on the dancers at ballroom dancing last night or running the 5K.  Next is swimming, team tailgate and the opening ceremony - all places where transplant-recipient athletes and donor families will see our Phi Sig sisters volunteering.

I am loving every second and don't want it to end.  I have had the chance to find athletes I met in Pittsburgh 2 years ago and enjoy seeing the way they have grown and changed!

OK.... Gotta run! Marianne Cohen is here and ready for us to go to swimming. ... I am so excited to see the athletes compete.  Look for more updates from me (through Lisa, our onsite blogging queen, who is on my speed-texting dial). Thank goodness for cell phones, because we have all been texting and communicating on a constant basis! (Foundation President Katie Herschede even called me while I was on the 5K run and told me, Jess Berner and Marianne Cohen to turn around and run back to the Monona Terrace so she could take a pic.... But, it didn't happen - as we were on the move, haha). More soon!

Mother at the Games: 'Grateful for every moment I'm alive'

From Erin Halye (Gamma Sigma - Virginia Commonwealth University), collegiate volunteer at the Games and loyal Phi Sig sister:

I want to tell you the story of a woman I met from Team Tennessee. She found out she needed a liver transplant right after her son celebrated his first birthday. Finally she was fortunate enough to locate a donor and receive a transplant. ... Nineteen years later, she proudly told me that her son is flourishing at Columbia University. "I never thought I would get to see him go to college," she told me.  She was grateful for every moment that she has been able to experience with her family and friends as a result of the gift of life she received.

She thanked me for all the support that the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation offers. It was so amazing to talk to her about her story and realize that the small act of volunteering at these games were so important to the people here. I really felt that we are was making a difference here!"

Meeting a donor family!

Marianne Cohen and Missy Spishak with the Zaragoza family whose son saved 4 lives 5 years ago! They are from California and are here supporting one of the recipients who is competing in track and field.

Larry Hagman LOVES Phi Sigma Sigma!

It's a Phi Sig tradition: having our photos taken with one of the world's most famous faces, actor Larry Hagman - who is a long-time advocate of organ donation/transplantation and the Transplant Games. (You know him best from the TV classic, "I Dream of Jeannie.") A transplant recipient himself, he never fails to attend the Games and show his support for this important cause.

This year, he sought us out to take this pic! We <3 Major Anthony Nelson!

Shown at bottom: Erin Halye (Gamma Sigma - Virginia Commonwealth University, Amanda Barnum (Theta Alpha - Northern Michigan University), Jen McElroy (Theta Upsilon - University of La Verne) and Valerie Damon-Leduc (Gamma Zeta - University of Rhode Island).

From our Phi Sig runners, who just completed their 5K....

It was so cool to do the 5K with over 1,000 other volunteers, recipients, and donor families! Great course, great weather and awesome volunteers along the course!
Sent from iPhone

Photos on the run!

All these smiling Phi Sig faces...

No wonder our booth at the Expo is THE place to be! Shown here (L-R): Foundation Director of Development Erin Leahey, Danni Pascuma and Sam Ryel of Gamma Zeta sisters from the University of Rhode Island, and Foundation Director (and newly elected Vice President) Marianne Cohen!

Far too many miracles to count... (Robyn Carr, Theta Psi at Alma College)

My first experience volunteering at the Games in Louisville was life-changing - and Madison is proving to be the same!

From the moment I arrived and started seeing all our sisters experiencing the Games for the first time, I have been reminded of the reason we are here. Organ donation and transplantation IS important, and we are here supporting that cause and spreading the word with you and our many readers.

I love that as we participate for the third time (woo hoo, go Phi Sig!) people here know who we are and why we are here. Comments like "Oh, you're the sorority...! I have your pin from last time!" bring a smile to my face.

I have met too many amazing recipients and donor families to count - and later, I will write about the most touching so far as well as telling you about my experience recording a segment that might be used in a documentary about transplantation. It's called "The Power of Two." You'll also hear more about my new tattoo and pin. (Don't worry, Mom, it's a temporary tattoo!)

HEY, collegians! Here's your next Rock-a-thon idea...

...courtesy of CKA Kelly Chirumbolo (Gamma Tau - Northern Kentucky University).

It's a bean-bag toss (a game called "cornhole" in Kentucky) sponsored at the Expo by the American Liver Foundation where the goal is to throw a liver beanbag (complete a smiling face, arms and legs) into the hole on a board painted with that foundation's logo.... Winners get a pin - and learn more about liver donation and transplantation.

HERE'S THE BOARD (the blurred "bird-looking" thing, as Kelly called it, at bottom left is the beanbag):


Everybody wants to be a Phi Sig...

...if only to own THIS T-SHIRT, worn by Eileen Collins, a Phi Sig alumna volunteer and daughter of a transplant recipient. (Check out her blog about that experience from the other day). Don't you just love this? If Eileen had a dime for every time someone wanted to know how to get one of these babies...


A little about the historic place we're based...

If you've never been to Wisconsin's state capital before, it's lovely! We're based at the historic Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center - one of the architectural legacies of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Running the 5K in Madison today

Hundreds of people are outside the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center preparing for the start of this morning's 5K run/walk. Among them (L-R): fabulous Phi Sig volunteers Marianne Cohen (also a Foundation Director), Jess Berner and Games Coordinator Extraordinaire Missy Spishak - who reports via text messaging that the race is about to begin!

Most of the participants are, of course, donor recipients of all ages - who, whenever you meet them, are always willing to discuss how organ donation and transplantation changed their lives. More on that soon!

Friday, July 30, 2010

And more goodies!

We also want to thank the Twin Cities Alumnae Chapter who provided these really cute goodie bags. THANK YOU!


A big thanks and shout out to Grand Vice Archon Alicia Scott who sent some delicious cookies to all of our volunteers! It was a wonderful surprise!!! Thank you!

Forget Dancing With The Stars!

It's now DWTPS (Dancing With The Phi Sigs, of course)! After the ballroom competition, we swarmed the floor for a little dancing to cap off our amazing first day of volunteering. If we were competing, we'd be pretty hard to beat!

Dancing up a storm!

The Phi Sigs are cheering on some amazing athletes at the newest event at the Games - ballroom dancing! Wow, what phenomenal talent. About 10 couples danced and they were all spectacular...but a 10 year old stole the show with a special encore dance he and his sister performed. Wow! Our vote is to definitely keep this event for 2012!

Ballroom dancing is about to begin...

We're vacating the Expo - and heading down to the massive ballroom now where the ballroom dancing competition is about to commence!

No web access there - however, as soon as we're back online, we'll post all kinds of photos taken nearly every few minutes, it seems.

Each person here has a story.... If we have our way, we'll tell as many as we can.

ROCK THE BALLROOM, Andrea Fogle and Robyn Paige Carr! They're leading our volunteers during this first competition. More soon!

Quilts of love, hearts of hope


These are panels from dozens of memorial quilts lining the hallways - silent testimonials to loved ones who are gone, but whose gift of life has helped make it possible for another person's life to go on.