A THOUSAND inspirational athletes will descend on Bolton next summer for the British Transplant Games.
The event was launched this morning at Bolton Town Hall, where organisers, competitors and members of Bolton Council gathered to look ahead to the games, which will take place from August 7 to August 14 next year.
Transplant athletes will compete in 18 sports ranging from curling to cycling, table tennis and ten pin bowling at a variety of venues in and around Bolton.
It is estimated that the games could provide a £2 million economic boost to the area.
The games, which have been in existence for over 30 years, are held every year in different cities across the UK with the aim of raising awareness of the NHS Organ Donor Register and promoting the value of organ donation.
This summer’s event, deemed the biggest ever, took place in Sheffield.
Anyone between the age of two and 80 years old who has undergone a major organ transplant can take part, with many of the people who compete each year having undergone life-saving transplants of hearts, kidneys, lungs or bone marrow.
At the launch event the Transplant Games flame was lit and Bolton received the official games flag.
Lynne Holt, trustee of Transplant Sport, said: “We have made amazing advances but the reality is that three people die every day in this country waiting for a transplant and last year that included 20 people from the Bolton and Greater Manchester area — these games provide a great opportunity to get the message across.”
One Bolton resident who is no stranger to the Transplant Games is 17-year-old Beth Morris from Ringley.
She won four gold medals and three silvers at the World Transplant games in South Africa this year before returning to England to clinch four golds and two silvers at the British games in Sheffield.
Beth, who had a life saving stem cell transplant in 2002, after being diagnosed with leukaemia when she was 17 months old, said: “I will be so excited to represent Bolton at the games. I think if I can make it to the podium in front of a home crowd it will be a very humbling experience.
“I am so grateful to my donor — I don’t know him but he gave me the gift of life.”
Unlike the experienced Beth, one athlete who will be competing for the first time is 31-year-old Natalie kerr.
The mother-of-two, who lives in Adlington but is originally from Bolton, underwent a double lung transplant in February 2012 after suffering from pulmonary hypertension.
She said: “After the operation I immediately felt better but it took about a year for me to feel fitter.
“I didn’t realise the games were such a big event. It’s amazing and I think the fact they are coming to Bolton is fate for me, so I will definitely be having a go at a few events.”
The principal sponsors of the Transplant Games will be Sheffield-based health insurance firm, Westfield Health.
Chair Graham Moore said: “We have sponsored the games since 2008 and I can’t think of a better cause to get behind — if we can save just one life then it will be worth it.”
The 2014 games will be opened in Bolton’s Victoria Square on Thursday August 7 and Cllr Christopher Peacock, Bolton Council’s cabinet member for adults, said he wants everyone in Bolton to play their part.
He added: “I encourage everyone in Bolton to get involved to ensure that we have a successful games and so we can make a huge impact on the lives of the people who are waiting for a life saving transplant — Bolton can make a difference.”