Each year, the Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) recognizes three members of the transplant community. These individuals are lights of the transplant community and strive to promote organ, eye, and tissue donation. They have achieved incredible accomplishments and blaze the way for those in the community and beyond. The three awards are the Hero Award, the Bounce Back Give Back Award and the Community Champion Award. I’m excited to share that Dave Galbenski, Co-Founder of the Living Liver Foundation, won the Bounce Back Give Back Award this year. The three winners won a trip to Aspen, Colorado, for the Chris Klug Foundation’s annual Wine and Dine gala event on July 21, 2023. CKF will host the winners and their guests in Snowmass Village, and provide flights, lodging, and tickets for all Wine and Dine weekend events. Award winners will be honored at Wine and Dine, and given the opportunity to share their stories with event attendees.
When reviewing nominations, the Chris Klug Foundation looks for an individual who has received an organ, eye, or tissue transplant. The award recipient will not only have bounced back from their transplant, but they will also be someone who works to give back to the community. They live a healthy and active lifestyle and work to support others going through the transplant process. They will have achieved greatness by inspiring and motivating others to thrive post-transplant. Dave had a living donor liver transplant in 2019 due to the same rare autoimmune disease that Chris Klug had: PSC. His donor was his brother-in-law, Mark Dybis. From that moment forward, Dave has found many ways to give back to show his gratefulness for a second chance at life. Chris Klug’s story (see below) inspired him.
After his transplant, Dave resumed long-distance running, racing in two Detroit Free Press half-marathons. He also competed, won several medals, and set three records in his age category at the Transplant Games of America, the transplant community version of the Olympics. Because many people aren’t aware of living donor liver transplant, Dave has also partnered with Henry Ford Health to increase awareness of the procedure via television commercials, radio spots, and community activities. Currently, living donation accounts for 6% of all liver transplants but has the potential to help eliminate the waitlist for livers. Dave has worked to increase awareness by hosting Living Donor Awareness Nights at Utica, Michigan’s professional baseball field. The first night was on July 8, 2022, when over 4,500 fans learned about living liver donation. The second will be on July 14. This year, Dave also hosted his first Major League Baseball Living Donor Awareness Night with the Atlanta Braves on April 25 and he will host a second night with the Cincinnati Reds on July 19.
In late 2022, Dave also began work to eliminate barriers individuals face in Michigan when considering living donation. Unlike other states, you receive little protection from discrimination when you purchase life or disability insurance as a living donor. There are no tax credits offered for expenses, travel, and lost wages. Dave is utilizing his legal background to help advance legislation and overcome these obstacles. Finally, Dave was successful in his bid to have April 11th be recognized every year as National Living Donor Day in the United States. If you’d like to learn more about the Bounce Back Give Back Award, the Hero Award or the Community Champion award, click here.
The Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) was founded in October 2003 by Olympic Bronze Medalist and liver transplant recipient, Chris Klug. Chris was 21 years old when he discovered he needed a transplant. He then spent six years on the transplant waitlist before receiving his transplant. Just 18 months later, he won a Bronze Medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. He started CKF to promote lifesaving organ, eye, and tissue donation, and work to improve the quality of life for those touched by transplantation. CKF uses the stories of organ donors, transplant candidates, and transplant recipients to inspire, alongside events, school courses, and webinars to educate. All with the end goal of encouraging individuals to give the gift of life and register as organ donors.