Sheila Martin still shudders when she thinks about nearly losing her son.
Jim Pittman was almost on his deathbed in 1989 at age 21. He had gone from a 6-foot-5-inch 197-pound student athlete at N.C. Wesleyan College to a 117-pound man suffering from an unknown condition.
“I went to the hospital one day, and they told me he was going to die,” said Martin, executive director of the Dunn Center for the Performing Arts.
By the time Pittman was diagnosed with and successfully treated for Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disease that affects the lungs, kidneys and other organs, the damage had been done. He would one day need a new kidney. Doctors held off the transplant for several years, but when the time came, Martin was happy to give one of hers. The operation was a success.
Pittman turns 42 today, and for the last eight years, he and his mother have been determined to help other families in similar situations by raising money and awareness for organ donation. Mother and son are expanding their annual fundraiser, the Pitt Charity Golf Tournament, to a full weekend of events April 16 to 18, including a motorcycle ride, concert and the unveiling of a special gift.
The events fall during National Donate Life Month, said Dawn Hall, director of communications with Carolina Donor Services in Durham. The month is meant not only to raise awareness of organ donation but to honor the people who have donated and their families.
The fundraising weekend kicks off with the golf tournament at 1 p.m. April 16 at Birchwood Country Club in Nashville, Martin said. Registration is $100 per person. To register, call 937-4949.
Many of the volunteers working at the tournament will be transplant recipients, Pittman said.
“The lasting effect I would want is for everybody who participates in the tournament to see truly the gift that these organ recipients have received. Hopefully, it will help them if they are not organ donors to understand what a neat thing it is,” Pittman said.
The event continues April 17 with the first Pitt Ride for Life, an hour-long motorcycle ride around Nash County, said Wayne Autrey, its chairman. Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Twin County Motorsports, 2800 N. Wesleyan Blvd., and Rocky Mount Harley Davidson, 928 N. Winstead Ave. The fee is $10.
The ride will start at 11 a.m. at the Food Lion on Gold Rock Road and end in the Dunn Center parking lot. After the ride, there will be a motorcycle demonstration and stunt show by the N.C. Precision Drill Team, Autrey said.
The show will be followed by lunch and a concert at 1 p.m. by Wilson Fairchild. a country duo featuring the sons of Harold and Don Reid of the Statler Brothers, Martin said. The concert will include a song written by the group about a relative who received a heart transplant.
The weekend ends with a party unveiling Stuffee, a 9-foot doll that contains all the internal organs of the human body and can be used to teach children about the importance of organ donation, Martin said. The party will be at 2 p.m. April 18 at the Rocky Mount Children’s Museum and Science Center. Admission is free.
Last year, the tourney alone raised almost $20,000, Martin said. About $11,000 of that went to buy Stuffee.
Proceeds from this year’s events will go to the National Kidney Foundation and Camp Wiwanawi, a summer camp for North Carolina children on dialysis, Pittman said.