transplant games participants

Learn how the Transplant Games helped donor parents honor their son and encouraged a cornea recipient to live a full life

Transplant Games of America provides more than healthy competition

May 22, 2024 – When a loved one passes away and becomes a donor, the family’s lives are forever changed. Where there was once a grandparent, parent, child, sibling or cousin, there is now loss and grief.   

When a transplant recipient is given life, sight and/or mobility, their lives are forever transformed. Many recipients feel a well of gratitude and appreciation for their donor, often wanting to honor them by living their lives to the fullest. 

One way donor families and recipients can come together to heal and celebrate a second chance at life is through the Transplant Games of America. 

The Transplant Games bring together a community of people who have been touched by the miracle of donation and transplantation. Eye, organ and tissue recipients are joined by living donors, donor families, patients waiting for transplant and professionals from the donation and transplantation field. 

The Games include over 20 competitions for recipients and living donors, along with more than 60 special events throughout the six-day affair that provide opportunities to celebrate donors, attend lectures and workshops, and meet new people. 

It’s at the Transplant Games that Joy and John Beach Sr., donor parents to John Beach, have had the opportunity to honor their son and celebrate his donation that transformed over 160 lives. 

Transplant games group photo
Donor hero yard sign

“He'll always be my hero, my little boy,” Joy said. “But knowing that he lives in so many people and giving a second chance in life and enhancing their lives, it's truly amazing.” 

John was an adventurous boy who loved life. He started riding tractors, dirt bikes, four wheelers—you name it—when he was only eight years old. From then on, he was hooked. John loved fixing things around the house and when he was a teenager, he started building his own motorcycle. 

“He could take something apart and put it back together like the instructions were right there,” Joy said. “He was wonderful at woodworking, anything that he put his mind to do, he could do it.” 

transplant games John
transplant games John

On the evening of his 22nd birthday, John was in a serious motorcycle accident. His parents received a phone call in the early hours of the morning saying they needed to go to the hospital right away. 

Unfortunately, John succumbed to his injuries. Joy and her family were approached by Gift of Hope who told them that due to the nature of his injuries, John would make the perfect organ and tissue donor. 

“That night though, I gave him a big hug and I told him I loved him,” Joy said. “He said, ‘I love you, mama’ and those were the last words that I remember him saying to me. Those are words that I will forever cherish in my mind.” 

Joy and John Sr. were asked if they wanted to participate in the 2022 Transplant Games in San Diego, Calif. They wanted to be a part of it, but Joy wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. The prospect of the Games was new to them, and a bit intimidating. 

When they arrived and settled into the hotel, Joy and John walked to the convention center to pick up their name tags. They bumped into a few recipients who were also attending that year. Even though these recipients were strangers, they hugged Joy and John and thanked them for their son’s gift. 

Joy and John group at Transplant Games
Joy and John group at Transplant Games

“Even though we've met a couple of our recipients, it didn't touch [John Sr.] like that, but this touched him, and he did a total 360,” Joy said. “He said, ‘Oh my gosh, these people really do have a second chance. They're doing something with their lives,’ and he was able to see that. He was able to see the competition and the excitement.” 

By watching recipients compete in the Games, either through swimming or running, playing basketball, ballroom dancing, and so much more, Joy was able to witness the amazement on their faces that they could do these things again. 

“The grief that you have for your loved one is so intense, but when you see the joy of these people, because they get a second chance and they get to participate in life again, words can't describe it,” she said. “It's so meaningful.” 

Cornea recipient, Priscilla Mayes, can participate in life again herself thanks to the selfless generosity of her eye donor. She celebrates her restored vision at the Transplant Games as well. 

At 16, Priscilla was diagnosed with keratoconus, an eye condition where the cornea gets thinner and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape causing vision loss. In 1996, Priscilla received a cornea transplant she calls ‘Mr. Righty.’ 

At the time, Priscilla didn’t know anything about her donor and in 2015, she reached out to Eversight for information. With help from the team, Priscilla learned more about her donor and was able to send the donor family a letter. A few months later, she was approached by Eversight Philanthropy Director Alex Teska about competing in the Transplant Games. 

“Alex called and talked about being on a relay team of other cornea recipients,” Priscilla said. “I said I can't run that well, but she said to me, ‘It's not about speed, it's about sharing your story and hearing other stories and bringing awareness to the community.” 

Today, Priscilla is a three-time Transplant Games competitor whose first competition was in 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio, then the virtual Games in 2020 and most recently at the 2022 Games in San Diego, Calif. 


The Games are a great way for people from across the country, and even globally, to meet and share their connection to donation and transplantation. At Priscilla’s first Games, she met a man from Team Australia who also had keratoconus. 

“That was a great experience to know somebody who actually knows what I'm going through,” she said. “That was the first time where I could share my story and already have this communication where we don't even have to finish what we're saying because we understand each other so well.” 

Priscilla believes the Games are an important opportunity for strangers to find a connection between each other. 

“People just come up to you and they don't even say ‘How are you?’ they wrap their arms around you and say, ‘So, what’d you have?’ that's how you say hi,” she said. 

When Priscilla was competing in San Diego, she became a member of the Quarter Century Club because she had her transplant over 25 years ago. She walked in the Transplant Games parade through downtown San Diego and held the Quarter Century Club banner. 

“The parade was a great way to have others come out and support us,” Priscilla said. “It helps me to know that I'm not alone and to push my boundaries.” 

Medals on participant
transplant games participants in front of airplane
Transplant games banner parade

Priscilla is grateful to her donor every day. She feels blessed that ‘Mr. Righty’ has stuck by her after all these years. She loves competing in the Transplant Games and is attending the 2024 Games in Birmingham, Ala., where she will also celebrate 28 years with restored vision.  

The Transplant Games honor the lasting legacy of donors who gave the ultimate gifts of life, sight and mobility, and salute the recipients who gather to demonstrate how their life-changing transplantations have made a difference in their lives. 

Chalk picture of transplant games logo
Medals from games
Learn more about Transplant Games of America and find your team to register for the 2024 Transplant Games July 5-10. 

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