Cousins run together at Heaven Can Wait 5K

Sunday , June 22, 2014 - 10:11 AM

Heaven Can Wait 5K

JAMIE LAMPROS/Standard-Examiner correspondent - Cousins Mitch Johnson and Evan Kraaima celebrate...

By JAMIE LAMPROS

Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN -- Three months ago, Evan Kraaima received a new liver. On Saturday he was running like the wind.

The 10-year-old boy from Roy participated in the first annual Heaven Can Wait 5K Run. He said he did so because he felt better than he has in years and he wants to help bring about awareness for organ donation.

"I can keep up with my cousin now," he said. "He came here to support me because we are best friends."

The race was held at Leavitt's Mortuary and Aultorest Memorial Park in Ogden. Participants ran through the cemetery in honor of those who have given the gift of life through organ donation. All proceeds will be used to help in the remodel and maintenance of the Celebration of Life Monument, located on Library Square in Salt Lake City, said Alex McDonald, director of public education for Intermountain Donor Services.

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When he was seven weeks old, Evan began showing signs of biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile becomes trapped, builds up and damages the liver. In March he received his new liver.

"He's like a new kid," said his grandmother Cathy Mol. "He has color in his face, life in his eyes, more energy. He's grown taller and gained weight. We are eternally grateful."

There are currently 800 people on the organ transplant waiting list in Utah. In 2013 there were 98 organ donors in Utah, resulting in 314 transplant recipients who are able to let Heaven wait a few more years while they enjoy life with their family and friends, McDonald said.

Nine-year-old Hayden Cullimore was one of those recipients. Last July, he received a new liver and is doing well, said his mother, Tessa.

"It is because of a donor he is here today, so it is an honor to be here to thank all of those donors that have helped families like mine," she said.

Hayden also had biliary atresia and had been in and out of the hospital his whole life.

"On July 7th, 2013 we received a call telling us that Hayden was listed number one on the list and there is a possible liver that will match Hayden," Cullimore said. "At that moment, what a relief went through my mind. My son was going to be given the chance to receive a new liver and he was going to get a fresh start on life. But as fast as that thought went through my mind, I also immediately knew what that meant for another family. What an overwhelming feeling that was. It was something we had been wanting for so long, but at that very moment we could feel how fragile life is. The first question that went through my mind was, how could we ever repay our donors family?"

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