Twenty-six miles is too long for most of us to run, but not for 56-year-old Bedford resident Gary Girolimon, who runs his ninth marathon on Monday, April 19, in Boston.
He participates in the marathon in honor of his mother, Esther Girolimon, who died in 2008 from kidney failure. Esther donated her tissue to burn victims through the New England Organ Bank.
After his mother died, Gary received a letter from the organization talking about the victims who had received her tissue. “It was really gratifying to know that she had helped so many people,” he said.
An information technology director for the Goffstown School District, he was a runner in college but soon set his hobby aside because of various knee injuries.
Later, after suffering heart problems and having surgery to repair an aortic valve, he picked up running again as part of his rehabilitation. The rehab worked and, in the process, his knee gained the additional strength it needed.
Since his operation in 2004, he has run eight marathons. He’s also run several half-marathons, and he has participated in triathlons and other sporting events.
Hoping to raise awareness and education about the importance of organ and tissue donation, the runner became involved with Team Donate Life last January. He took the next step of signing the donor card on his driver’s license application.
Donate Life New England is a joint project of two federally designated organ procurement organizations that serve New England – LifeChoice Donor Services and New England Organ Bank and the Connecticut Eye Bank.
“I think awareness is really what this all about. It isn’t about money, but to draw attention to this great cause,” Girolimon said. “When you renew your driver’s license, you need to fill out the donor form or go to Donate Life New England Web site to register.”
Girolimon wants to educate everyone about tissue donation, he said.
Tissue donors are people who have decided that, after death, they would like to help other people in perhaps one of the most meaningful and lasting ways possible, he said.
Emphasizing that more than 1 million Americans require a tissue transplant as part of a medical procedure, he said these procedures are possible because ordinary folks have donated corneas, bone, tendons, heart valves and skin after death.
These tissues are used to treat a wide variety of conditions, some of which may be life-threatening.
He will run the marathon with his mother’s photo on his jersey. It is tradition now.
“I was scheduled to run the Dublin, Ireland, marathon in 2008, and my mother was coming to enjoy her Irish heritage and visit relatives.
“My mother got suddenly ill and passed away shortly before the trip. I ran with her photo on my shirt and completed the marathon.
“She used to come to my races and would have been very proud,” he added. “I think it is really nice knowing that part of my mother still lives.”
He now hopes he can continue her great legacy. For details, visit www.donatelifenewengland.org.