Gift of Life 5K returns to Winchester

The Gift of Life 5K returns to Winchester for the third year this weekend.

The race, which is open to runners and walkers, is set to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Winchester-Clark County Campus, 2020 Rolling Hills Lane.

Charla Hylton, race coordinator and an employee of the Clark County Circuit Clerk’s office, said funds raised from the race will benefit the Trust For Life’s Satterwhite Patient Assistance Fund, which provides funds to assist with a variety of medical needs for transplant recipients.

“The fund helps patients in dire financial need,” Hylton said. “A lot of people don’t realize that once you have a transplant, that is not the end. It is just the beginning. You’re on medication the rest of your life. You’ll need to have special treatments. You might need a feeding tube. You might need to travel to a far away hospital. Anti-rejection medication is expensive. This fund will give $1,000 to help people with medical expenses, and they can get that twice in their lifetime. They are referred for the program by hospital social workers who know who is truly in great need of these funds.”

Beside the Satterwhite Fund, Trust For Life is active in advocating for organ donation, spreading education and awareness about organ donation and supporting transplant recipients.

“The ultimate goal is we want everyone to be an organ donor,” Hylton said.

Hylton said she and former circuit court clerk Paula Joslin began advocating to bring the race to Winchester three years ago after it was held in other locations for the first two years.

“We wanted to bring the race here since this is where it all started,” Hylton said, noting that the idea to have people sign up to be organ donors when they get their drivers license or ID came from former clerk Arthur Walson.

“Arthur Walson had a relative who died while waiting for a transplant,” Hylton said. “When he found out how many people died waiting, he said this should not happen and there has to be a better way. It came to him that nearly everyone walks through here to get their drivers license or their ID, and if we ask them, people are going to say, ‘yes,’ especially if we educate.”

Wilson took the idea to the other circuit court clerks in the state, who got on board and took the idea to the legislature.

“Since we started this in Kentucky in 1992, the other states in the U.S. have started doing it and 70 other countries have started doing it. And it all started here in Clark County,” Hylton said.

And the passion for organ donation is evident locally, she said, where 96 percent of the community in Clark County are registered organ donors.

So, Hylton said, there was no better place to host the Gift of Life 5K than here.

“And the community has been so incredibly supportive in every way,” she said.

The cost to register is $30, but those who register at runsignup.com and use the promo code HOT can get $5 off registration.

Race-day registration will open at 8 a.m.

At Saturday’s race, there will be a special event recognizing two young people — one who was an organ donor and another who is a transplant recipient.

Hylton said at least 20 athletes from the University of Kentucky have signed up to participate in a special relay symbolizing the circle that is organ donation.

Athletes will carry photos of 4-year-old Marco Shemwell, who died last year after being struck by a vehicle after a UK football game and later donated his organs, and Catie Newsome, who is a transplant recipient who has been sick this summer and will not be able to attend the 5K herself.

“Even though Catie can’t be there and Marco, who will never be forgotten, won’t be there, they will be in our minds and our hearts during the event,” she said.

In addition to the race, there will be activities for children including face painting, inflatables and a kids fun race at the conclusion of the main event.

For more information about the race, email charlahylton@kycourts.net or dianaroyse@kycourts.net.

For more about Trust for Life or organ donation, visit donatelifeky.org.