July 17, 2024

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Frankfort nonprofit’s 5K and 10K to support organ donation

3 min read

A Frankfort-based nonprofit will hold its fourth annual 5K and 10K walk and run to support organ and tissue donation.

The event, Miles for Maddog, will take place Saturday, June 22 with the first race kicking off at 7 a.m. The USA Track and Field certified course starts at Lincoln-Way North High School and goes through the Frankfort Square Park District.

Miles for Maddog is hosted by the Maddog Strong Foundation, a nonprofit created by Frank and Cyndi Grobmeier after losing their daughter Maddie in 2019.

Two days before her 18th birthday, Maddie had an asthma attack that landed her in the hospital. After she was declared braindead, the Grobmeiers had to decide whether to donate her organs.

Maddie, having obtained her driver’s license before the Illinois Drive for Life act took effect in 2018, which allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to join the organ donor registry, was not a registered donor when she passed, her family said.

The difficult decision was easier for the Grobmeiers because of a conversation they had with Maddie four months earlier, following a life-threatening car accident. Shaken by the accident, the Grobmeiers said Maddie had told her parents she wanted to become a registered donor.

“When we were in the hospital and faced with that, with her death, we knew the decision that we had to make on her behalf because of that conversation,” Cyndi Grobmeier said.

Frankfort resident Trudy Sturino, left, embraces a race participant in the 2022 Miles for Maddog event. (Maddog Strong Foundation)
Frankfort resident Trudy Sturino, left, embraces a race participant in the 2022 Miles for Maddog event. (Maddog Strong Foundation)

The Grobmeiers said Maddie’s cornea, tissue and organ donations saved three lives, prompting them to start the foundation named for their daughter’s nickname, to educate families on the importance of organ donation.

“We made the decision that we wanted to do more. So we said we wanted not just to be able to tell Maddie’s story and continue her legacy but to change lives,” Frank Grobmeier said. “Organ donation was her cause, not necessarily ours, but we adopted it.”

In Illinois, 7.5 million people are registered organ donors, just over half of the state’s population.

Still, more than 4,000 Illinois residents are on the transplant waiting list, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nationally, more than 100,000 people are waiting for organ donations, and an estimated 17 people die each day while waiting for a transplant in the U.S., according to the most recent data from March.

The Grobmeiers have held the fundraising event since 2021 to support the national organ and tissue donation registry, as well as education and outreach efforts aimed at highlighting the importance of donating.

Peter Jansson, right, runs in the 2022 Miles for Maddog event supporting organ and tissue donation. The event pays tribute to donors who have passed away while celebrating lives saved through donation. (Maddog Strong Foundation)
Peter Jansson, right, runs in the 2022 Miles for Maddog event supporting organ and tissue donation. The event pays tribute to donors who have passed away while celebrating lives saved through donation. (Maddog Strong Foundation)

The Grobmeiers said they encourage families to engage in discussions with their children about organ donation before they are faced with the decision while getting their driver’s license or state ID.

“We realistically don’t know what we would have done if we were faced with that without knowing what her decision was,” Frank Grobmeier said. “That’s why it’s become so important to us to have a conversation about it, so your loved ones know what your decisions are when it comes to that.”

The night before the race, the foundation honors the past year’s deceased organ donors by dedicating a tree in the Frankfort Square Park.

Attendees will have the opportunity to register as an organ donor at the event.

For the Grobmeiers, the race serves as a celebration of lives saved through organ donations and a tribute to donors who have died.

Along the course, there will be more than 100 photos and signs showcasing both deceased and living donors who have contributed organs to those in need.

The Grobmeiers said organ donation is not talked about enough, and hope to educate people on how a seemingly quick decision can save up to eight lives.

“We just believe that you should have that conversation, no matter where you are, more people should be talking about it,” Frank Grobmeier said. “There’s a huge gap between what people think is a good cause and them actually doing something about it. And so that’s what we’re trying to do, is close that gap.”

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