Organ transplant recipient ‘pays it forward’

Swing Easy Hit Hard charity golf tournament brings awareness to need for organ donors

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Four years ago, Kirk Franz, Johns Creek’s recreation and parks manager, was 36 years old and had it all – a job he loved, a loving wife and three wonderful children.

Then in late 2009, the doctor gave Franz a virtual death sentence. He had cancer of the liver and the bile duct.

“A liver transplant saved my life,” Franz said. “I was blessed that someone made that decision to be a donor.”

Franz said he also owed a lot to the Emory University Transplant Center. Once he was diagnosed, he was put through a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that enabled him to contain his cancer to just the liver.

“That allowed me to be considered for a transplant, and I was able to get a liver in one week of showing no cancer had spread,” Franz said. “Now, I want to pay it forward.”

Franz and supporters created the Swing Easy Hit Hard charity golf tournament as a way to repay thousands of dollars in medical bills. Now, Franz is continuing the golf tourney as a fundraiser for the Swing Easy Hit Hard Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) fundraising organization whose mission is to increase organ donation awareness and to provide support for patients and families affected by organ donation and transplantation.

Coinciding with National Donate Life Month, the April 17 golf tournament has as its mission to increase organ donation awareness and to provide support for patients and families affected by organ donation and transplantation.

Proceeds will go to the Georgia Transplant Center Fund and the Emory University Transplant Center, Franz said.

Every Georgia driver’s license has a box that can be checked saying you are an organ donor, Franz said. People can also contact the Donate Life – Georgia Foundation (donatelifegeorgia.org) to get on its registry as an organ and tissue donor.

“But however you register, you should make sure your family knows what your wishes are after you are gone. It will make your family’s decision much easier at a difficult time,” Franz said. “It’s a way you give a person a second chance at life.”

Charity event helps celebrate National Donate Life Month

“I had no idea how often people in the Atlanta area were receiving an organ transplant,” said Franz. “There are several each week. And most have to wait a lot longer than I did to receive their ‘gift of life.’”

After Franz recovered from his transplant, he felt called to find a way to “give back” to others who would require an organ transplant. In 2012, with the help of family and friends, he established an annual charity golf tournament and the Swing Easy Hit Hard Foundation.

“I love to golf and always enjoyed playing in charity golf tournaments. Now, I had a great reason to organize a tournament of my own to support a worthy cause that is very close to me and my family,” said Franz.

This year’s event will be held during National Donate Life Month on April 17 at the Windermere Golf Course. In addition to golf, each player will receive a Chick-fil-A lunch, an Under Armour pullover, hat, non-alcoholic drinks and post-golf dinner banquet. This year’s dinner banquet will feature live music, a silent auction, raffle drawings and awards.

Swing Easy Hit Hard charity golf tournament

Date: Thursday, April 17

Location: Windermere Golf Club, 5000 Davis Love Drive, Cumming

Time: Check-in at noon. Shotgun start at 1p.m.

Fee: $150/player, $550/foursome

Registration and info: www.SwingEasyHitHard.org

Quick facts about organ donation

· 121,614 people are waiting for an organ

· 18 people will die each day waiting for an organ

· One organ donor can save up to eight lives

· To learn more about being an organ donor, visit www.DonateLifeGeorgia.org.

JC 04-17-14