After years of training as a professional snowboarder and exteme sport athlete headed for the Olympics, Chris Klug developed Primary Sclerosing Cholangitits. The clocked ticked for six years while he waited for a liver transplant until July 28th of 2000. His sport and his drive then took on a new purpose when life gave him a second chance. In 2004, Chris founded the Chris Klug Foundation for Organ Donor Awareness.
E-Advocate Network: When you received your Olympic gold medal you became a champion to athletes around the world. Now you help save lives as well. What was you inspiration?
Chris Klug: I’ll never forget my six years on a transplant waiting list, hoping and praying for a second chance. My life was put on hold and I did not know what lay ahead. 100,000 people across the US are currently waiting for solid organ transplants, sadly seventeen die daily waiting. Chris Klug Foundation’s goal is to “Eliminate the wait.”
In a fun way we’re hosting events across the country to educate everyone about the importance of organ and tissue donation. I always loved snowboarding. Through snowboarding I’ve been provided a tremendous platform to help make a difference to those waiting for a second chance. Every chance I get, I wave the banner of organ donation. I hope to compete in my third Winter Olympics in 2010 and help represent the transplant community and encourage everyone to register as an organ donor and provide hope to those going through the transplant process.
E-Advocate Network: Was there a key point after your surgery that you remember knowing you were going to rise to such incredible athletic heights?
Chris Klug: As soon as I awoke from my six hour liver transplant surgery I felt like a new engine got dropped in me. I knew I was going to make it back. Ironically the competitive snowboarding season following my transplant was one of my best. I was on the World Cup podium four times and won a National Championship. I attribute this to the fact that I was racing for my life just a few months before and now I was racing my snowboard again. It truly put things into perspective for me and made me realize how fortunate I was to have received a second chance to do what I love.
E-Advocate Network: What are the primary goals of the Chris Klug foundation and how did your personal experience shape those goals?
Chris Klug: Sharing the life-saving message of organ and tissue donation with everyone. Through our Donor Dudes events on every high school and college campus across the country, CKF hopes to educate young people about the importance of sharing their donation decision with their family.
E-Advocate: Signing up to be a donor can impact the lives of many. How can someone help spread this message through your foundation and sign up?
Chris Klug: Get involved, team up with CKF and host a Donor Dudes event at your workplace or on your campus. Share the message with your friends and family. Together let’s eliminate the wait.
E-Advocate Network: Your key event is the Summit for Life. How does this event further your personal message?
Chris Klug: First, the Summit for Life is an awareness and educational event. Secondly it is the primary fund raiser for CKF, so we can continue our organ donation outreach through our Donor Dudes events.
E-Advocate Network: When someone becomes a racer or sponsors a racer, how does this impact the lives of those in need of a transplant?
Chris Klug: Sponsoring a racer is an opportunity to share the message of organ donation. The funds raised from S4L racer pledges help CKF continue our important donor education outreach. CKF will host twenty-five donor awareness events in 2008 promoting donation at events such as the Winter X Games, Vans Warped Tour, FIS Snowboard World Cup and high school and college campuses across the country. We hope to double the number of Donor Dudes events in 2009.
Summit for Life, Aspen, Colorado.
The Summit for Life is an annual event with over 500 climbers making their way up Aspen Mountain at night. They climb 3,267 vertical feet, in the dark and through fairly treacherous terrain. The following pictures are from the mountain top finish line during my visit to Summit for Life in 2009. It was one of the most inspiring charity events I have attended in Colorado. All abilities were welcomed, championed and celebrated.
1/7/2012 – updated to reflect pictures from the event.