Committees on the board of Transplant Life Illinois include PR/Marketing, Membership, Recruitment, Development, and Donor Family Liaisons. Other voting members of the board include our members-at-large and TGA representatives. Ex-officio and past presidents serve as advisors.
Jason Kechik had a heart transplant at Northwestern in 2017 that didn't go as planned. A year later, he climbed 108 floors after he had been told he may never walk again. He came in second to last that day, but persevered until the end iin true Jason fashion.
Prior to Jason's transplant, he ran his own public relations and marketing firm. During the pandemic, he changed course and opened his own shop, Authentic Memorabilia and Framing. He hopes to bring his marketing expertise to Transplant Life Illinois and participate on Team Illinois at the 2024 TGA.
He is currently followed by a team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and is newly married to Lara Ann.
Membership and Recruitment
Eric Fischer’s twin brother, Kurt, died suddenly in 2005 of a malfunction in his heart’s electrical system while he was playing baseball. They were 27 years old. Out of caution, doctors implanted a defibrillator in Eric. Everything was normal for over two years until Eric’s heart went into ventricular tachycardia. He passed out, but the defibrillator shocked his heart back into the correct rhythm and saved his life. This became frequent and eventually any physical exertion caused him to get shocked. Eric could not pick up his little kids. He walked with a cane. On March 4, 2013 he was blessed with a new heart after only a matter of days on the 1A transplant list.
In August 2022, he competed in San Diego in his first Transplant Games winning 6 medals, in basketball, volleyball, track & field and darts. Eric celebrates life every day with his wife, son, twin daughters, and their dog, Amber. He loves movies, camping, the Chicago Bears and White Sox. While having family adventures and making memories, he continues to remember and honor the two lives lost that allowed him to continue his story.
Claudia Acevedo traveled to San Diego in 2022 to honor her 26-year-old son, Jaime. He passed away on Oct. 12, 2018, and became an organ donor.
“We called him the Cisco Kid,” she says. “He was as loving and caring a person anyone could have ever met. He was kind to everyone he met and could always entertain you with interesting news from around the world.”
As sad as it is to lose a child, she says, Claudia knows that Jaime would have been proud that he was able to make a difference in so many people’s lives.
“He was witty and could make anyone laugh,” she continues. “Jaime had the goofiest crooked smile that would make you smile right back. His heart beats on.”
Claudia hopes to raise funding for Transplant Life Illinois to support more donor families who wish to honor their loved ones at the Games.
Jennifer is the blessed recipient of a liver transplant at Indiana University Health in 2018. She received her undergraduate, law and MBA degrees at Indiana University - Bloomington.
Jennifer was an attorney in Chicago for almost 20 years focusing on real estate, commercial lending and bank regulatory matters. She is also a practicing watercolor and pastel artist.
Jennifer hopes to use her skills to assist Transplant Life Illinois in its many worthy endeavors.
Gina Baxter has been a staunch supporter of Team Illinois since the mid-2000s. Her husband, Mack, is a liver recipient and former Team Illinois competitor.
Gina served as Team Illinois manger for three Transplant Games and is an organizer of Team USA for the World Transplant Games.
Gina is lending her time and expertise to Transplant Life Illinois for special projects and board counsel.
Gift of Hope Liaison
Julie Gilmartin joined Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network as the Volunteer Coordinator in 2022. She is inspired every day by the work of volunteers who are transplant recipients, donor families and living donors. Julie is excited to represent Gift of Hope with Team Illinois and looks forward to supporting Team Illinois at the 2024 Transplant Games.