Donate Life Transplant Games Bringing Volunteers, Athletes To Salt Lake City

Jul 26, 2018, 6:07 PM | Updated: 9:37 pm

SALT LAKE CITY –  Twenty people die every day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Yet thousands more receive the gift of life and get the transplant they desperately need.

Next week, thousands of organ donors and recipients will converge on Salt Lake City for the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games. For the athletes and their families, it’s about celebrating recovery and spreading awareness.

Organizers are still looking for hundreds of volunteers.

Dax Francis gears up to compete in the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games

Dax Francis found out he had kidney disease when he was 12 and had a kidney transplant at age 20. Now, six years later, he’s tuning up his golf game for the Transplant Games.

“It’s definitely been a recuperating tool,” Francis said of his golf game. “A way to get out and clear my head.”

That was especially true while Francis recovered from a kidney transplant. He’s been through a real battle with poor health most of his life because of kidney disease.

“It’s really a great way for me to be more involved with life,” Francis said.

He started playing with his father at age two. Today, golf keeps him active with his family. When he first read about the Transplant Games coming to Salt Lake City, he was thrilled.

“This is just awesome!” he said. “It’s a way for me to be normal, you could say, a way to interact with the community that I’ve been involved with for so long.”

Dax Francis will be competing in the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games

Francis said he’s honored to play in the Transplant Games and help raise awareness for organ donation. Too often in life he’s felt as though he had to pass up on many fun activities with his friends.

“You feel left out and just feel like life goes on without you,” he said.

That’s not the case during the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games in Salt Lake City, though.

On Aug. 2-7, organ recipients, donors, and their families will gather for events ranging from swimming and cycling to bowling and ballroom dancing.

“It’s not about competing. It’s really a celebration of life and trying to get back to some normalcy of life,” said Dr. Donald Morris, an Intermountain Medical Center Kidney Transplant Nephrologist.

The Games will help highlighting the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation throughout the community.

“We really encourage them to be active and try to live a very normal life,” Dr. Morris said of his patients.

Today, there are about 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, according to UNOS. About 100,000 of those are waiting for a new kidney. Here in Utah alone, there are 525 on the waiting list for a kidney, and the average wait time is three to seven years depending on blood type and other health factors.

“It gives you a good goal to look forward to: to get back to good health because you’ve been given a gift of life,” said Jerold Wilcox, a kidney recipient and cyclist.

Wilcox is also the organ transplant coordinator at Intermountain Medical Center. Since he received his kidney less than a year ago, he’s not eligible to compete. Instead, he’ll volunteer this year.

“I want to help those who have gone through the transplant to have a smooth transition, and make sure their experience is positive,” he said.

Around 6,000 athletes and supporters will attend, bringing an estimated $8-10 million in economic impact to Utah. The best way to get a front row seat for more than 20 different sporting events at venues around Salt Lake City is to volunteer.

Volunteers can sign up at

The six-day event is produced by the Transplant Games of America and hosted by the Utah Sports Commission, Intermountain Donor Services, the University of Utah Solid Organ Transplant Program, and Visit Salt Lake.

Francis said he is eager to get out on the golf course with other organ transplant recipients and donors to enjoy the camaraderie and the competition.

“You all know the fight that you put in every day for life,” he said. “It’s really great to come together and see everyone that is in the community that you’re part of.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


Ultraprocessed foods, like burgers and fries, could raise your risk for cognitive decline if it's m...
Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Dementia risk may increase if you’re eating these foods, study says

If more than 20% of your daily calorie intake is ultraprocessed foods, however, you may be raising your risk for cognitive decline, a new study found.
2 days ago
Michael Locklear

With so many kids sick, some Utah pharmacies run out of liquid Tylenol, ibuprofen

As parents deal with sick children, some are also facing another challenge. Some common medications can be hard to find, including liquid Tylenol and ibuprofen.
5 days ago
FILE: This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Pre...
AMANDA SEITZ, Associated Press

US plans end to mpox public health emergency in January

The federal government plans to end in January the public health emergency it declared earlier this year after an outbreak of mpox left more than 29,000 people across the U.S. infected.
5 days ago
flu shot tripledemic...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The rise of respiratory viruses and COVID’s impact

It’s not even winter yet, and the CDC is warning that the country is experiencing a resurgence of respiratory viruses, which are taking a toll on hospitals and children.
5 days ago
Give A Thon...
Madison Swenson

How to donate to Primary Children’s Hospital during KSL’s Give-A-Thon

The annual KSL Give-A-Thon is Wednesday, Nov. 30 in partnership with Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital. Here's how you can donate.
8 days ago
Primary Children's Hospital announced Monday about 50 elective, prescheduled surgeries will be dela...
Cassidy Wixom, and Debbie Worthen, KSL TV

‘Unprecedented surge’ of RSV patients causes more surgery delays at children’s hospital

Primary Children's Hospital announced Monday it will be delaying 50 elective, preplanned surgeries that require the patient to stay overnight due to capacity issues from high rates of RSV and other respiratory illnesses.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Donate Life Transplant Games Bringing Volunteers, Athletes To Salt Lake City