When Beth Reinhold attended her first Transplant Games of America, she said she saw amazing things — like a double lung transplant recipient playing the bagpipes.

"And that just blew my mind," she said. "It was very inspiring and uplifting to see these people, who otherwise wouldn't even be here, out doing these things."

The games are a biennial, Olympic-style competition where athletes — mostly transplant recipients and donors — participate in more than a dozen events. Donor families, whose loved ones gave their organs, also come to show their support.

As part of a donor family, Reinhold and her mother will attend the games for the fourth time with Team Philadelphia, which will bring 65 recipients, six living donors and 20 donor families. This year's games run through Tuesday in Houston.

Giving life: Reinhold, 50, of Dover Township goes on behalf on her brother Keith Reinhold, who died of a heart attack in 2005 at age 39.

When he passed away, her mother, Carol, wasn't keen on having her son's organs donated. But she changed her mind when she saw his donor status on his driver's license, she said.

"We were glad afterward that we did that," said Carol Reinhold, 71, of York Township. "It made us feel like he's still living on, in a way."

Her son donated his skin, tissue and the corneas of his eyes, and the region's Gift of Life Donor Program said his tissue went to recipients in six different states, she said.

Beth Reinhold said the donor families who attend the games emerge during a ceremony and get an emotional reception.


"I still cry when I come in and I see all these people who are so grateful," she said. "It's very emotional and humbling."

She said she's an organ donor herself.

"There are a lot of people on waiting lists waiting for a chance at life, and if I can help somebody, why shouldn't I?" Beth Reinhold said.

Have a heart: In addition to the Reinholds, Janet and David Keller of Dover Township will participate in the games for the eighth time with Team Philadelphia.

Their youngest son, Joe, died in 1994 at age 14 while attempting to save his classmate from drowning in a low-head dam. She survived, but he did not.

Joe wasn't a typical teenager, his mother said. He was kind and had a heart of gold — and he ultimately gave it to someone else, she said.

Janet Keller, 59, said she never spoke with her son about his organ donation preferences — and she encourages parents to do so. At first, she was indignant at the thought of donation: "Joe already gave his life to save another, and you want to do this to him?" she recalled herself thinking.

In the end, Joe donated his heart, kidneys and liver.

"If you can help another person, why wouldn't you do that?" Keller said.

She said the games are "magical" because as families grieve, they get to see a brighter side: Transplant recipients who were on death's door and are now thriving.

"We just can't get over how grateful they are," Keller said.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.