Illinois first sent a team to the Transplant Games in 1990 under the auspices of the National Kidney Foundation. In 2011 when the NKFI ceased its sponsorship of the Games, Team Illinois formed its own entity and grew from there.
Some of our members have competed almost from the beginning, but in 1996 a group of basketball players started a tradition as the "Spare Parts" that continues to this day. Transplant athletes have competed in many locations throughout the United States, most recently in Grand Rapids (2012), Houston (2014), Cleveland (2016) and Salt Lake City (2018).
Representing Team Illinois in 2018 were 32 athletes and 45 loyal supporters. Among the athletes competing for Team Illinois were 13 kidney recipients, four heart recipients, eight liver recipients, one bone graft/tissue recipient, one kidney/pancreas recipient, and one stem cell recipients. Several living donors also competed for the first time. Together they brought home 39 medals, including 14 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze in such sports as team basketball, swimming, track and field, corn hole, bowling and badminton.
Our athletes and supporters will head next year to the Meadowlands in New Jersey, where they will meet many others whose lives have been impacted by organ and tissue donation. We will proudly compete in the Games, and we will humbly honor donors who gave the greatest gift of all - the gift of life.
This is Team Illinois