Witnessing kindness and compassion is one of the greatest experiences we can have as human beings. In a world where such acts are seemingly decreasing, we must celebrate it as often as we can. Longtime friend of RunVermont Rebekah Thomas is a rare gem on this planet, and we could not be more excited to support and honor her for our first race of the Get Out, Give Back Winter Race Series on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022.
Rebekah is not only a tremendous athlete, but one of the most incredible people we know. Her life has been guided by giving, from donating blood to donating organs, and this upcoming March, she will attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro with Kidney Donor Athletes. We asked her about her organ donation journey and here’s what she had to say:
“I was inspired to donate after a former student received lifesaving liver and organ transplants from living donors when she was in middle school. She is now a nurse working directly with transplant patients. I followed her journey and when the time felt right, I stepped forward as a living donor.
I actually ended up donating at UPMC in Pittsburgh, which is where she was a patient. Her dialysis nurse was my transplant coordinator, and her father’s transplant surgeon (he donated part of his liver) was also mine! I donated the right lobe of my liver (65%) on July 22nd, 2019. Fourteen months later, for my birthday, I donated my left kidney on September 25th, 2020.
My recipients were unknown to me until after our surgeries. I met my liver recipient about a week after the transplant, and I met my kidney recipient and his wife the day after the transplant. Both are doing well. I was able to see my kidney recipient at my six month follow up appointment and it was pretty amazing to hear him laugh out loud and see the difference in his energy level.”
When Rebekah was in college, she started donating platelets, plasma, and whole blood on a regular basis. Over 25 years later, she has donated 922 units (just over 115 gallons), potentially saving over 2,700 lives.
Rebekah’s first marathon was with us at the 2001 Vermont City Marathon & Relay. VCM was her first of several events with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program. 2001 was also the first year she volunteered with RunVermont manning one of the race packet pick up stations at the Sport & Fitness Expo. She’s run and volunteered every year since. She says, “I’m happy to report that VCM was my 50th marathon and also my 100th! I serve on the Marathon Command Team as part of the youth events, and I have been a pacer for the last several years.”
For Rebekah, movement is life. We asked her why it’s so important and we couldn’t agree more with her answer:
“Running, movement, and being outside are natural outlets for the stresses of life and work; a way to maintain a sense of balance. Group runs and races are times to catch up with people who also have very busy lives. An added bonus of running is the idea of ‘race-cations’ that we plan as a group that are set in new and interesting locations.
Running has quite literally given me the opportunity to run and travel all over the world. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It teaches discipline and important life lessons in perseverance, goal setting, flexibility, time management, sportsmanship, and giving back to the community. I love coaching Mini Milers at my elementary school and watching young runners grow in these areas and develop their love of the sport.”
Rebekah has partnered with Kidney Donor Athletes (KDA), whose mission is to promote the gift of life through living kidney donation among active individuals and athletes by building a community that inspires, supports, and educates people about the experience of kidney donation. On World Kidney Day (March 10th), 22 kidney donors will represent KDA with a summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Each athlete is raising funds and awareness before the climb. More than 97,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for kidney transplants. Over 3,000 new patients are added to this list every month. With fewer donors than there are those in need, 13 people die every day waiting. The proceeds for RunVermont’s Get Out, Give Back race on January 23rd (the first day of 26.2 training for VCM) will go toward supporting Rebekah and KDA’s mission.
We can’t wait for you to join us!