One of the highlights of TOT 4.0 was meeting such fantastic people that opened their homes for us or helped us in other ways.
Connecting with people along the route to help us with lodging was always part of our plan, but last spring, COVID prevented that on TOT 1.0.
Enter Debb (Hawks) Solomon, who Lynn has known since they were classmates in grade school, and Joe Bauer, who graduated a year earlier than us (Debb, Lynn and I were in the same grade). I moved to Abby the summer before my Junior year and I got to know both Debb and Joe at Abbotsford High.
Debb and Lynn had always stayed in touch and when Deb and Joe heard about TOT 1.0, they wanted to share in it. When we couldn’t ask to stay in people’s homes due to covid, Deb and Joe offered their motor-coach. WOW! That was an amazing stroke of luck.
Then last fall on TOT 2.0 we reached out to National Kidney Donation Organization (NDKO) members, Kidney Donor Athletes (KDA), family, and friends that helped us out.
For TOT 4.0 I expanded the list to include not only NKDO and KDA but the Catholic Knights of Columbus Council members and even 1 VFW member!
This post is the story of these people who graciously offered to host Lynn and me.
To repeat, please consider subscribing to THE ORGAN TRAIL YouTube PAGE to help us reach more people. Thanks.
Santa Monica, California
Meet Suzanne Verge and her husband Jeff Peak. We spent 3 nights with Suzanne and Jeff. They only live a mile from the beach. Suzanne also orchestrated the UCLA CORE Kidney event. Suzanne is also a living kidney donor and belongs to NKDO, where we met. When I asked for help with TOT 4.0, Suzanne offered her services.
We received a commendation at the CORE event as well, from 5th District Councilman, Paul Koretz.
San Diego, California
Chuck Knox. Chuck was the first host that belongs to the Knights of Columbus, Council 7902.
I picked the Knights to reach out to as I’m also a Knight and their ethos of helping people fit right into the kidney donation theme. The Knights have Councils in almost every town, pretty much wherever there is a Catholic Church. Chuck invited his friend Jim Cox and his wife over for Alaskan halibut that Chuck not only prepared that evening, but caught himself and also filleted and transported via plane to California. It was a great evening of conversation.
Chuck also worked it out to include The Organ Trail in the Intentions and a Blessing at Mass the next morning. We got to meet more Knights after Mass along with Father Edwin Tudor and talked to a number of parishioners to share our story and listen to their stories, as well.
The Start from Ascension Catholic Church.
Mission Viejo, California
We got introduced to Helen and Bill Mills by Joe Sinacore from the National Kidney Registry (NKR.org). Bill is a kidney recipient and they belong and run a Kidney support group out of Saddleback Church in California.
Not only did Helen and Bill host us, they introduced us to Dr. Uttam Reddy at UC Irvine in Orange, CA, where we had an event and to George Welu at Mayo in Phoenix, AZ where we had another event. Helen also connected us with Heidi Miller who was able to speak with Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett to present a Proclamation.
So, as you can tell, Helen and Bill helped us out immensely in a number of ways!
Mike Lynn, a family connection, is the Commander of Post 3173 in Anaheim. Along with the opportunity to tell my kidney story, we enjoyed the evening of music at the Post with Mike, his wife Cheryl and many more. Mike and Cheryl also hosted us for the evening. The Organ Trail was presented with a citation from the Post.
Click here to see Mike’s video.
Palm Springs, California
My sister Mari connected us with some friends of hers that had moved out from Minnesota a number of years ago, Donna Kirscht and Sandy Konnad. Sandy was out on a hike in the morning when I needed to head out, so Mari stood in for her.
A friend of Donna just happens to need a kidney. Lyn Bonyhadi’s story can be found here.
Al and his wife Tersa Ortiz. Al belongs to Knights of Columbus Council 3215.
We were also invited to their Council fish dinner which was fantastic. Originally, Bryan Eguez offered his home to us but as he had to get up earlier than expected the next morning, Al pitched hit for him. Great people!
A week or so before we arrived in Indio, I was privileged to join Council 3215 on zoom and did a presentation on our kidney story.
We started into the desert and were welcomed by Mike Flynn and his wife Lori in Blythe at the end of the day. Mike belongs to Knights of Columbus Council 4939. We came in quite late and met Mike and Lori for dinner. Mike picked up the tab for dinner and a hotel room which was greatly appreciated.
I didn’t get a video or picture of Mike, but we’re working on getting one. It was late and I think biking in the hot sun all day (got up to 100F) fogged up my brain a bit. I was pretty tired.
We spent 2 nights at my niece’s place while in Phoenix. Kayla is my brother Gary’s daughter. Gary rode with me from the start in San Diego to Phoenix.
Gary also was responsible for getting Hugh up to Phoenix for our event at Mayo. Gary, Hugh and Joe Bauer joined up for some more golf, picking up where they left off last spring when we were all in Natchitoches, LA. I went biking instead of playing golf…..I think I got the better end of that deal, don’t you?
After the biggest climb of the ride (4,000′ of elevation, not sure how many actual feet I climbed, lots of ups and downs) we met Dan Alm and his wife Judy for dinner and then set us up in a hotel room. Dan belongs to Knights of Columbus Council 9995.
We met Dan and Judy at Church in the morning and introduced us to Francis and Judy. Fran is from Wisconsin. Also, Fran told us that his brother was born with 1 kidney and didn’t find out about it until he was 60 years old.
Dan also got us on the local radio station that actually was a 30 minute podcast. An amazing opportunity to talk in-depth about many aspects of kidney donation.
Jim Girard and his wife Rosirio from Lakeside, AZ, which is close to Show Low, offered to host us 2 nights, as they were equal distance between Heber and Springerville. Jim belongs to Knights of Columbus Council 12078. Due to putting in some extra miles the day before and wanting to put in more on the day we got into Show Low, we actually didn’t stay with Jim and Rosirio, but they did cover lunch for us and we had a great talk.
Payson to Show Low, Rim Country, is a very nice area, one that Lynn and I will go back to. It’s nice that we met some new friends to catch up with when we do.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Pat and Nancy O’Brien offered to host us for the 2 nights we stayed in Albuquerque. They are a fantastic couple and we hit it off right from the start.
Pat is also on dialysis and is actively looking for a living donor. We rode bikes and did a number of events together the days we were in town. Fun time while doing some serious work.
Mountainair, New Mexico
We stopped at Guillermo (aka Willy) and his wife Juanita’s home as we pedaled along the route through Manzano, NM. Guillermo belongs to Knights of Columbus Council 3138 in Mountainair, NM, where we were hosted in a hotel room.
We also met with Marc LeFrancois from the Council at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (Quarai unit) just a bit south of Manzano. Marc is a National Park Service employee for the 3 Missions in the area. Lynn and I had just happened to have stopped at the Monuments 2 winters ago, but Marc gave us some fantastic additional information concerning the Missions. The Spaniards were in this area in the 1600’s….around the same time that Jamestown was settled.
I also was invited to attend their Council meeting to do a kidney presentation which happened to hit on the evening I was there.
Alas, I didn’t get a video or a picture of Guillermo and Juanita, nor a picture at the Council meeting. Marc has offered to send me a picture of the guys, though.
This is a pic I stole off the internet of the Salinas Mission.