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An Emotional, Joyful Green Up Game at Southern Illinois University

Posted May 7, 2018 in News Category
mt15037-webresKidney recipient Blake Bahr, left, and donor dad Chris Snider, right, threw out first pitches before Southern Illinois University's softball game on Sunday.

Chris Snider stood in the pitcher’s circle at Charlotte West Stadium preparing to throw the first pitch before Southern Illinois’ softball game on Sunday. To his right, the Salukis stood along the third base line. To his left, Northern Iowa’s softball team lined the first base side of the infield.

Over the speaker system, the public address announcer talked about his heroic stepson, Dominic, who saved five lives as an organ and tissue donor in 2014. The moment wasn’t lost on Chris. “To see this start to branch out means so much, especially coming up to Carbondale, to honor Dom,” he said. “It gets to me every time. Very emotional.”

Chris and Dom’s mother, Sara Snider, created their own Green Out Games in the fall 2014. Their first event was a football game at Scott City (Mo.) High School, where Dom was a three-sport athlete. In fact, Mid-America Transplant’s Green Up Games were inspired by Chris and Sara, and their efforts to raise awareness at their own Green Out Games. Since 2014, Dominic’s family has held several Green Out Games in Scott City and in the surrounding communities. They’ve raised thousands of dollars to help transplant patients, and they’ve inspired countless people to join the organ and tissue donor registry, providing hope to those in need of a transplant.

Players and coaches from both teams applauded Chris as he threw the first pitch to Southern Illinois catcher Katelyn Massa. Afterwards, Chris pondered how far Dom’s story could go. “This team is from Northern Iowa,” he said. “They may go back to Northern Iowa and say, ‘Look what we did in Carbondale. We had this green game for organ donation, maybe we need to do something like this to raise awareness for organ donation.’ That would be awesome.”

A Joyful First Pitch
Laurie Jansen had one word to describe three-year-old Blake Bahr’s first pitch: Joy.

Laurie donated a kidney to Blake two years ago. At the time, Blake couldn’t walk, crawl, or eat. So to see Blake walk to Laurie’s daughter, a freshman shortstop for the Salukis who was catching his first pitch, it was a joyful moment. “Watching Blake grow brings so much joy to me,” said Laurie, whose mother received a kidney transplant and lived an additional 16 years. “People always ask if I would (donate) again, and I absolutely would. But he brings me more joy. Seeing him do so well and meeting three-year-old milestones, that brings a lot of joy to my life.”

mt15024-webresThe Southern Illinois University softball team wore blue and green jerseys in support of organ and tissue donation.

It was an equally moving moment for Blake’s parents, Heather and Nick, who escorted Blake to the pitcher’s circle with Laurie. “He’s come so far,” Heather said. “He wasn’t able to do anything a little guy should be able to do. And now he’s doing incredible. He started pre-school, and he’s loving being around other kids. He eats like a champ. He loves running around and playing. It’s just such a blessing to see him doing so well.”

Blake walked the ball from the circle to Jenny, behind the plate. He captured the hearts of a softball team, that posed for a team picture with him after their victory Sunday. “We really want to share the message of organ and tissue donation,” said Saluki softball coach Kerri Blaylock, whose brother passed away before he received a kidney transplant. “We feel it’s one of the most important causes there is. It’s so moving to see all the families, and all the happy stories. Blake’s is a happy story, and we were thrilled to be a part of this today.”

Moment of Silence
Before the first pitch, about 30 people carried green balloons on the field for a moment of silence. Donor families, recipients and transplant professionals carried the balloons in remembrance of organ and tissue donors and as a symbol of hope and healing made possible through the gift of donation.

For Jeanne & Joe Dzeima, they thought about their daughter Jessica, who saved two lives through organ donation and helped another person see through cornea donation in 2012 as a 21 year old. “She was with us, watching the ceremony,” Jeanne said. “She loved softball. It was the perfect place for her to be today.”

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