On December 6, 1992, Brian Praetzel was born with hypo-plastic kidneys and required ongoing support and medical care. His family—including his older siblings—rallied quickly behind their newest member, and soon learned that he would need a kidney transplant.
“From birth, the doctors gave Brian little hope for survival,” says Brian’s older brother and close friend, Chris Praetzel. “Luckily, doctors were able to find a match for Brian’s kidney and with a successful transplant he was able to live.” In late February of 1996, then-three-year-old Brian received his kidney at a Philadelphia transplant center, and since that time, the Praetzel family has adopted a culture of gratitude—including Chris, who wanted to raise awareness about organ donation through a run across the country he dubbed The Brotherly Love Run (www.brotherlyloverun.com).
“The concept for the Brotherly Love Run was to run across America for organ donor awareness,” says Chris Praetzel, who plotted a course for running and walking across the United States that began on the West Coast. “For more than two years, this idea has been stuck in my mind daily.”
On May 23, 2012, five days after he graduated from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania., with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Psychology, Praetzel, who had flown out to California, dipped his toes in the Pacific Ocean, then began his run in Santa Monica, CA. Throughout the spring and summer, Praetzel made his way across the country, stopping to sleep, eat and discuss the critical need for donation with anyone who would listen, blogging about his experience along the way. (http://www.brotherlyloverun.blogspot.com/).
More than 6,500 men, women and children in Gift of Life’s region are currently awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. Praetzel engaged people along the way in conversations about these alarming statistics and the need for becoming a registered organ donor. “Learning about people who decided to become donors after meeting me or hearing my story is some is something that really can’t be measured in the miles I ran. I finally feel like I’ve made a difference,” he humbly says.
His journey took him to the Mojave Desert –where he ran at night to avoid extreme desert heat, over the Rocky Mountains and through the Plains.
He camped in a tent, stayed with friends and stayed with people he met.
“I was especially grateful for the kindness of strangers I met along the way,” says Praetzel. “They offered their homes to me so I could have a place to sleep and shower. They also shared meals with me.”
Praetzel has gone through 11 pairs of sneakers.
He will have logged more than 3,000 miles by the time he ends his journey.
Nearly four months after his journey began, Praetzel is preparing to reach his family’s home in Mullica Hill, NJ. As of September 19 he was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He plans to arrive in West Chester, Pennsylvania September 20 and in Philadelphia September 21. He hopes to arrive in Atlantic City the morning of September 24.
Praetzel’s brother Brian, their family, friends, and representatives of Gift of Life Donor Program and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center will welcome Praetzel to his “finish line,” the Atlantic Ocean, where he’ll end his donation journey by jumping into the Atlantic Ocean.
“As a Regional Trauma Center, we witness the generosity of individuals and their families who make the lifesaving gift by choosing donation,” said Pam Peterson, RN, clinical director, Critical Care, ARMC. “We applaud Chris for his commitment to raising awareness about the importance of organ donation and for paying the gift to his brother forward.”
“I am deeply touched,” says recipient and brother, Brian, now 19 years old. “I truly hope that the Brotherly Love Run will accomplish its goal of spreading awareness for organ donation and inspiring people all over the world to become registered donors. I’m proud of Chris and I love him.”
Gift of Life Donor Program is the non-profit, federally designated organ and tissue transplant network serving eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. For more than 37 years, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 33,000 organ transplants, along with more than 300,000 tissue transplants.
Gift of Life encourages those who want to make the commitment to donate to register online at ww.donors1.org. For more information on organ and tissue donation, please call Gift of Life at 1-800-DONORS-1 (1-800-366-6771) or visit at www.donors1.org.
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