UT Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk has received the Donate Life Champion Award from Donate Life America.
He will be presented with the honor Saturday, Oct. 7, during the Homecoming Toledo-Eastern Michigan football contest. Kickoff is at noon.The Donate Life Champion Award recognizes members of the sports/athletic community who have had a significant impact on organ, eye and tissue donation. A few of the past Donate Life Champion Award recipients include the NBA’s Michael Jordan, the NFL’s Boomer Esiason, the PGA’s Erik Compton, Olympian Chris Klug and “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts.
“I’m extremely honored to receive the Donate Life Champion Award,” Kowalczyk said. “I’ve seen firsthand how organ donation can extend the lives of individuals, and I think it’s vital that we continue to spread the word for people to become organ donors. Organ donation is a cause that my family and our program are behind 100 percent.”
Kowalczyk, who was nominated for the award by Life Connection of Ohio, has been touched personally by organ donation. His close friend, Trey Schwab, passed away in 2016 after living 12 years following a double lung transplant. Kowalczyk has been an advocate for organ donation for over a decade and has worked closely with Life Connection of Ohio since 2013.
“Life Connection of Ohio is grateful to Coach Kowalczyk for his incredible support and dedication to raising awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation,” said Kara Steele, director of community services with Life Connection of Ohio. “Coach Kowalczyk is so deserving of this national recognition through the Donate Life Champion Award. “His partnership with Life Connection of Ohio has inspired people to save lives through donation.”
Joining Kowalczyk on the field Saturday will be UT graduate Ashley Sheeks-Butler, who has lived the past 10 years following a double lung transplant. Ashley was originally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 2 years old and wasn’t expected to live past her 10th birthday. She defied the odds, but her lung function declined in her 20s to just 15 percent. Ashley was told at that time she would not live much longer without a double lung transplant. Ashley eventually was put on a ventilator, slipped into a coma, and, miraculously, woke up with new lungs.
Donate Life Champion Award recipients are chosen by Donate Life America, a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Va. Donate Life America’s mission is to increase the number of donated organs, corneas and tissues to save and heal lives through transplantation, and to develop a culture where donation is embraced as a fundamental human responsibility.
Life Connection of Ohio is the nonprofit organization that has promoted and facilitated organ donation in northwest and west central Ohio for 25 years. Last year, Life Connection of Ohio coordinated the recovery of organs from 50 donors, providing 190 life-saving transplants.
For more information or to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, visit lifeconnectionofohio.org.