Jay Slayter remembers the exact moment he decided to get involved in raising awareness for organ donation
"It all started about three years ago," the Alexandria resident recalls. "Ritchie Martin, a friend of mine, had another friend whose 6-year-old son, Garrett, died in an accident. We went down to Lafayette and ran an event in honor of him. On the way back we decided we needed to do the same thing in Alexandria."
That conversation turned into "Running the Road for Life," an annual 5K run in downtown Alexandria that benefits the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency.
This year's event will be the third, and co-organizers Slayter and Martin hope it will be as successful as the previous two.
"Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, we were able to get Everson Walls to come speak," Slayter said.
Walls, a Grambling State and Dallas Cowboys star whose NFL career spanned 14 years, gained national attention in 2006 when he donated a kidney to former Cowboys teammate Ron Springs.
Springs suffered from severe complications of type-2 diabetes and was in dire need of a transplant. At the time, Springs' son Shawn, a standout with the Washington Redskins, volunteered to give up his own kidney, but Ron Springs refused on the basis that it would end his son's NFL career.
That's where Walls stepped in.
But he didn't do it for the notoriety. He did it for his friend.
"We already know we love each other," Walls told ESPN's Greg Garber in 2007, soon before the transplant procedure was to begin. "I have never told Ron I love him. He has never told me he loved me.
"He didn't have to."
Slayter hopes that Walls' story and presence at this year's run will not only raise money for LOPA, but also raise awareness of the importance of organ donation in general.
"Since we started this, we've heard so many touching stories," Slayter said. "It's always a tragedy when a family loses a loved one, but they take a lot of comfort in the fact that lives can be saved through organ donation. Through Garrett's life, for example, the lives of at least five other children were saved."
"It's a great organization," he said. "It feels good to be part of something so important."