JP Marzano and his family have been involved with the transplant community for more than 25 years, and the Donate Life Transplant Games have been a huge part of his life.
Diagnosed at age 16 with a degenerative kidney disease called Alport syndrome, JP has been on two “tours of duty” for kidney dialysis and has had three transplants – all from living donors. His father Jim was donor #1; close family friend Nan Vaile #2; and one of his best friends from high school, Ben Kraus, donor #3 in 2007 at Duke University Hospital.
“All are my heroes,” JP says. “My mother was also a kidney recipient, and my Aunt Margie was her living donor. Needless to say transplantation runs in the family.”
JP first participated in the TGA in 1996 (Salt Lake City) as a member of the inaugural Spare Parts basketball team. He returned in 2010 (Madison) and had so much fun reuniting with people that he has gone to every Games since. He has served as team manager for four Games – 2012 (Grand Rapids), 2014 (Houston), 2016 (Cleveland), and 2018 (Salt Lake City). His father Jim also attended several Games in support of his son.
When in 2010 the national Transplant Games lost its main sponsor and nearly folded, JP helped keep Team Illinois together. In 2011 he led the way for the 501c3 filing that resulted in the nonprofit status and the Transplant Life Illinois organization today.
“I couldn't bare the thought of the team dismantling back in 2011, and that's why I stepped up,” he recalls. “I'm still amazed at how far we've come. All the personalities, the different backgrounds, the stories, the smiles and the tears...that's why I served so long as manager.”
In 2018 Marzano competed in team basketball, pickle ball, table tennis, tennis (singles and mixed doubles) and team volleyball. He has won dozens of medals throughout his TGA career and hopes to continue to compete on Team Illinois in the future.
“Despite all the pain and struggle of my past, the Games, for me, are the best time to reflect on how lucky I am and how far I've come,” JP adds. “Even after 3 transplants and two stints on dialysis, I still feel so humbled when I leave, as there are always people I meet and stories I hear that leave me in awe. Whether it's the strength to pull through and overcome a tragedy or the power of the human spirit to conquer an illness or a disease and just keep moving forward...either way, I'm always at a loss for words to articulate the experience. But I hope this does it justice somehow.”
You can reach JP at firstname.lastname@example.org.