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Night For Life: Organ donation fundraiser to be held Monday

By Staff | Apr 8, 2016

A fundraiser is being hosted by the Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida, Inc. in Fort Myers next week to benefit the Fletcher Fund, all while raising awareness of organ donation.

Night for Life IX will be held Monday, April 11, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Broadway Palm Dinner Theater. The buffet begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by calling David Weinstein at 239-560-3401, or at the door.

“It’s a fundraiser for the Fletcher Fund and we also promote organ donor awareness and the importance of registering for an organ donor,” Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida, Inc. President Shamie Kelly said. “It’s a great event.”

The nonprofit organization, Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida, Inc., began in 1992 after Newman, “Mac” Fletcher began his recovery as a heart recipient and decided to host meetings in his home for other transplant recipients.

“There wasn’t a set meeting place, or a set date, they would just meet whenever,” Kelly said.

Members of the original Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida, Inc. created the Fletcher Fund, a philanthropic fund for people living in Southwest Florida who are either organ recipients, or waiting for transplants.

“We try to help them cover funds that aren’t covered through insurance,” Kelly said of the board that oversees the Fletcher Fund.

The funds have helped pay for such things as gas money for caregivers when traveling to Tampa, supplemental insurance payments, medicine and before transplant treatments that are not covered.

The event will feature a buffet, entertainment by the Del Prados, a scene performed by the cast of “Funny Girl,” silent and Chinese auction and raffles. Kelly said one of the auction items includes a day with Shaquille O’Neal. She said a person and their guest will have lunch at his Orlando house and play basketball with him.

Lifelink and their volunteer group ORGANizers will be on hand to help individuals sign up to become an organ donor through an app.

Pitch for Life, another event, will be held April 23, to benefit Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida. Partial ticket sales from the Fort Myers Miracle 6:05 p.m. game will benefit the group. Tickets are $7.50. The event will also feature a health and wellness night, and appearances by former pro wrestlers Brutus “the Barber” “Beefcake” and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.

Kelly said Lifelink will be in attendance to share more information about organ donations.

The Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida, Inc. meets the first Thursday of the month at Lee Memorial Outpatient Center at the Sanctuary, 8960 Colonial Center Drive in Fort Myers at 11:30 a.m. A light lunch is provided.

“It’s mainly about support, information and education,” Kelly said of the meetings. “It’s a nice interaction.”

Those who gather, share stories of their experience, ask questions depending on their circumstances and listen to speakers.

She said they bring in a variety of medical professionals from dietitians, pharmacists and insurance personnel from the Transplant Center as speakers for the meetings.

Kelly said the group is comprised of about 60 members who have received heart, pancreas, liver, lung and cornea transplants. She said the nice thing about the group is it provides a valuable resource for individuals who may have had to travel out of Southwest Florida to receive a transplant.

Kelly and her mother became members of the group eight years ago.

On Feb. 5, 2008, Kelly received her first kidney transplant after the doctors diagnosed her with kidney problems on Dec. 30, 2003. In December 2011, Kelly lost the kidney due to it fighting her body and allowing blood and proteins to pass through. Exactly one year after she was placed on the transplant list she received the call – a match was found. On April 3, Kelly celebrated the year anniversary of receiving her second kidney.

“I met some really nice friends and I learned more about organ donation,” she said about joining the group. “Organ transplants was something that you saw on a license plate, or registering at the DMV. It was never really on my radar. I know it is more prevalent than I thought.”

The group has connected Kelly with others who have had similar situations.

Those interested in more information about the meeting can call Kelly at 239-247-3073. For more information about the group, visit www.organsupport.org.

Memberships are $5 a year for individuals and $10 for a couple to join the Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida, Inc.