About Revive Hope

  • Revive Hope's focus is to revive hope by creating inspiration. This blog will have postings of inspiring stories about individuals directly affected by organ and tissue donation, provide information about organ and tissue donation, and inspire those who view the site to give hope through compassion!

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We're Pink!!! HOT PINK!!! Kari's Klimbers 2016

Posted on February 26, 2016 by Steve Ferkau


Ain't these freaking awesome?!?!

This is the fourteenth time I will ascend the 1,632 steps, 94 floors of the John Hancock Center in the Hustle Up the Hancock!!! This is the thirteenth time for my team, Kari's Klimbers...

The simple fact that I actually can take the stairs 94 floors up is mind-boggling - when not too long ago, standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs, my oxygen tank weighing on my shoulder, felt like I was at the base of Mount Everest. Actually - it was 15 years, 325 days ago that Kari came into my life and changed all of that...


This is the back of my team shirt... The splash of numbers and initials are people who are very special to me. Almost all of them are people from Iowa who knew and loved Kari - who have come out to be with us and climb with us. Kari was #13 on her Algona Bulldogs High School volleyball team - the top two rows are Kari's volleyball teammates who climb regularly. (#7 is my Alex, who gave me Mabel, her kidney, in May 2012!). The next four rows of initials are Kari's friends, and people who Kari grew up with... The bottom row are not Iowans - they are people special to me, some of whom have climbed with us, who we've lost over the past years because this transplant thing, and sometimes just life, can be rather fragile.


Here are the people behind all of the numbers on my shirt - stopping for a picture on Kari's floor, 13, during the climb a few years ago. I cannot imagine adoring daughters more than I do these girls. I would take a bullet for any one of them. Preferably small caliber and in an extremity - but nonetheless, a bullet. It's been 16 years. Now and then one or two of them miss, apologizing profusely, because, ya know, well - life happens - but most of them are out here every year to be together, and help me remember and honor their friend. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? (Or how that makes Kari's family feel???)

Since we'd started fourteen years ago, I'd tell you in a heartbeat that I never did this to raise money, I do it to tell people about Kari, and about the goodness of organ donation. But, the money Kari's Klimbers has raised over the past years is probably approaching a half million dollars! I know what it's like to struggle for breath - to be afraid of dying... Can you imagine how many people in my respiratory shoes who we've helped??? I hope Kari would be proud of the people we've helped in her memory, and in her honor.



The Hustle and the Respiratory Health Association also funds lung cancer
research. It gets less press, but lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer combined. Along with Kari - this year our climb is also dedicated to Laura's mom. My beautiful mom-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer last fall. Much to my Laura's dismay, moms and I were partners in mischief and finding the wrong foods to eat, particularly doughnuts. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, mom and I had some long chats about options, and the strength it sometimes takes not to fight. She chose to fight. Ironically - the chemo had dramatically shrunk her tumors - it worked. But it was too toxic for the rest of mom and she didn't survive. We climb to fund research so maybe next time - someone else's mom-in-law has a better chance of hanging around and sneaking doughnuts with them.


But to me - this climb will always be about Kari, and the beautiful people who surrounded her. And about Alex - one of the people who surrounded Kari who, years later found out I was in trouble, and let me know she had my back. After 12 years of the drugs that allow me to keep Kari's lungs destroyed my kidneys - four years ago Alex gave me one of her kidneys. Can you imagine what it feels like to be surrounded by people who loved Kari that much???


And about those awesome, hot pink shirts... I didn't know Kari... But on Saturday and Sunday I will be surrounded by several people who Kari grew up with - people who knew and loved Kari... And on Sunday, I will be surrounded by over one hundred people who come out to climb with me, and help me honor Kari and her friends... And we will all be wearing hot pink and neon green shirts - the colors picked out by Kari's beautiful niece, Eva Kari - in the picture here with her brother Garrett. I can't even imagine how much Kari would adore her niece & nephew, Eva & Garrett... And I can only imagine how much they would adore Kari... And I think she would be tickled-pink at the colors her Eva chose for this years climb!!!

As I'd mentioned, sixteen years ago, standing at the base of a flight of stairs with my oxygen tank weighing on my shoulder – looking up that flight felt like I was at the base of Mount Everest. In my wildest, wildest dreams – I could not have imagined a world where I could stroll up 94 floors of stairs – 1,632 steps – without skipping a beat. I could do it every single, freaking day… Seriously! I can do it because of organ donation. I can do it because of two beautiful girls from Iowa – and the inspiration from dozens of their friends and families. And I can do it because of millions of people, like you, over the years supporting people like me… Thank you.

If things are tight, just cheer me on, and think about Kari, Alex and all of the people involved in saving lives like mine… But, if you can spare a few bucks, please consider opening a purse or wallet and donating to me, my team, or someone on my team, or someone you know doing this climb… I know an awful lot of people struggling like I did. You can help me do something to help them – and help me pay forward the millions who have kept me here on this beautiful planet.

Contribute to Steve's climb – click here…

Contribute to Kari's Klimbers or a team member – click here…

To see my website about Kari and what she's done – click here…

To register to become an organ & tissue donor – click here…


Kari's Klimbers - 13 Climbs

Posted on January 30, 2015 by Steve Ferkau


My princess, Laura, used to sleep like a rock. When we met, 28 years ago, she sometimes slept so soundly that my sisters thought there was something wrong with her! For 10 years after our marriage, my cystic fibrosis got progressively worse – as it is prone to do – and 18 years ago I was dying. I was in end-stage cystic fibrosis after struggling for 39 years with $hitty lungs. I was not going to live much longer with the lungs I had. I needed new lungs. I needed a gift from some thoughtful, compassionate person and family.

While I waited for that gift – Laura no longer slept like a rock. She always slept very lightly – constantly vigilant and sensing any change in my shallow breathing pattern. I was on oxygen around the clock – and when I was sleeping, she would notice if my oxygen was compromised often before I did – and she would get up and make sure my tubing wasn’t kinked, or the cats didn’t disconnect it – she would make sure it was flowing properly and go back to that light sleep. I don’t think she’s ever recovered that ability to sleep like a rock.

It wasn’t easy living like that – for either of us. And Laura was the reason I wanted to continue living – she was and is the reason I struggled and hoped for a better life with new lungs. She has always made my life worth living.


Kari13My gift came in April, 2000. A beautiful 17-year-old girl named Kari had told her family how strongly she felt about organ donation twice in the month before she passed away. She wore number 13 on her high school volleyball team, where she was a star middle-hitter. I learned about Kari two years after I received her beautiful lungs. Laura and I met her family – they are amazing people… Kari’s mom connected me with dozens of her friends and volleyball teammates. Kari’s beautiful smile is in the background of everything I do.

TeammatesAnd if all that ain’t beautiful enough – over the past 10 years, dozens of those friends and volleyball teammates that Kari’s mom connected me with have come out to climb with me every February, and continue to do so. Kari's family came out for my 10th climb. Kari wore #13 on her Algona High School volleyball team, and this will be the 13th time I will be in those stairwells. This year #15, #12, #8, #7, #4 & #2 will be in the stairwells with me again... AlexSteveKidney A few years ago my stair climbing, and my life, were nearly cut short after years of anti-rejection drugs destroyed my already-compromised kidneys. But - #7, Alex, Kari's friend, neighbor and volleyball teammate, wouldn't let that happen. Alex gave me one of her kidneys in May 2012. I tell people that I'm slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa! Can you even imagine what it feels to be near Alex and the rest of Kari's friends??? And to have them come out to remember and honor Kari with me???

My team name is Kari's Klimbers and we climb to honor her and the gifts she gave. Though Kari and her friends mean everything to me - in this situation, the reason we climb and fundraise is equally important. And the reason is very important to me… I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis on the day of my 13th birthday in 1973. In the 70s, I was not expected to make it very far into my teens, much less out of them. I know this did not leave my parents in their happy place - but my mom & dad never showed their distress to me. They fostered in me an attitude that I could accomplish what I set my mind on accomplishing. We did not deny my illness, but they fostered in me my worth as a person and hoped that would drive me more than problems might hold me back.

Over the years following my diagnosis – I've watched amazing developments that helped me, and so many with respiratory diseases live longer, better lives. Like the tide raises all ships – these medical advances help all of us struggling for breath… I witnessed life expectancy for cystic fibrosis patients, like me, go to our late teens, then twenties – and now to our mid to late thirties! I'm 54 ¾ – I'm way beyond that. I'm beyond that because of a beautiful, amazing girl named Kari and her family. And further beyond because of Kari's friend named Alex.

KariKari and Alex and their families, and all of their friends are on my mind throughout the day, every single, freaking day. But there are so many more reasons why I'm alive today – organizations like the Respiratory Health Association – events like the Hustle Up the Hancock – the crazy people who climb these buildings with me – and the people who contribute to our cause, and help us raise funding for research and programs that help keep people like me alive, and living better, easier lives… They help give a kid with asthma a puffer and an understanding of how to use it – and a mom or dad programs or advice to help them stop smoking – they give hope for a lung cancer patient that, maybe, this is not the end of their road – and someone with pulmonary fibrosis or COPD education and research that will help them live a longer, better quality life. We do that. You help us do that…

Fifteen years ago, standing at the base of a flight of stairs with my oxygen tank weighing on my shoulder – that flight may as well have been Mount Everest. In my wildest, wildest dreams – I could not have imagined a world where I could stroll up 94 floors of stairs – 1,632 steps – without skipping a beat. I could do it every single, freaking day… Seriously! I can do it because of two beautiful girls from Iowa – and the inspiration from dozens of their friends and families. And I can do it because of millions of people, like you, over the years supporting people like me… Thank you.


If things are tight, just cheer me on, and think about Kari and all of the people involved in saving lives like mine… But, if you can spare a few bucks, please consider opening a purse or wallet and donating to me, my team, or someone on my team, or someone you know doing this climb… I know an awful lot of people struggling like I did. You can help me do something to help them – and help me pay forward the millions who have kept me here on this beautiful planet.


Contribute to Steve's climb – click here…

Contribute to Kari's Klimbers or a team member – click here…

To see my website about Kari and what she's done – click here…

To register to become an organ & tissue donor – click here…


We're leaping tall buildings again!!! Hustle up the Hancock, 2014

Posted on April 02, 2014 by Steve Ferkau


It’s April – so it’s National Donate Life Month… And awesomely enough – the Hustle up the Hancock was also postponed until April – so I get to honor Kari, Alex and Organ Donation on the month that also honors them and all donors and living donors, as well as tells everyone about the importance of organ donation…

SteveFamZoo1999aCan you imagine having your family pounding on your chest for hours every day and working to keep you alive? Can you imagine being on oxygen 24/7, walking to a flight of stairs, looking up, and seeing Mount Everest? Can you imagine living your whole life with compromised lungs – and find yourself at your worst – knowing you’re dying?

Can you imagine getting a gift – two new lungs – from a precious young person and her grieving family? And suddenly there are no more Mount Everest’s and climbing 180+ flights, 94 floors is a walk-in-the-park!!!

Kari's VBall Teammates 2012Can you imagine learning about the girl and family who saved your life? Then being surrounded by people who loved her while you’re climbing those 94 floors – and they’re climbing with you – in her memory??? And years later – facing your mortality again when your kidneys are failing – then having one of her friends let you know she’s got your back, and she gives you one of her kidneys so you can both keep climbing? I’m not sure how you can imagine all of this because before I started living it – I never imagined how amazing it could feel to just breathe.

We’re climbing again!!! We’re late this year – renovations on the Hancock Observatory delayed the Hustle from our usual February to April 13. On the plus side – it’s the day after my birthday… And what could be better after a night of drinking and celebrating than climbing the stairs 94 floors at 8:15am-in-the-morning?!?!

Noname-2This is my 12th climb, the 11th climb for my team - I've got 100 people climbing with me, including a dozen people Kari grew up with... #15, #12, #8, #7, #4 & #2 will be in the stairwells with me - Kari was a star middle-hitter on her Algona High School volleyball team - she wore #13 - her teammates will be in the stairwells with me (including #7, Alex, the original owner of my new kidney...) They're coming out from Iowa, Minnesota, Kentucky and Illinois to help me honor their friend and my hero... And several other people Kari grew up with will be with me as well. Can you imagine how I feel when I'm surrounded by people who loved Kari? Surrounded by people who Kari loved??? They're all good people - and they give me a glimpse of who Kari would have become...

I do this to tell people about Kari – about her and her family’s goodness – and about Alex and about the importance of organ donation. And we also do this for the Respiratory Health Association... RHAMC funds research in lung disease - they help people stop smoking - their work helps everyone breathe cleaner air... They help people breathe easier. I know what it's like to breathe with diseased lungs - and now I know what it's like to breathe with the most beautiful lungs in the world. One of RHAMC's mottos has been, "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters..." I lived through that motto, and know too many people living it now. The RHAMC and all of these people who climb with me help people breathe. We have a very special mission...

I know these are not the best of financial times for many of us... If you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I or anyone on my team would be honored to receive a pledge... But more than anything, I'd love it if you would check out my little website and read about the beautiful girl whose lungs I breathe with, as well as the beautiful girl who gave me her kidney - and the people who surrounded them, and surround me now – people who have allowed me to leap tall buildings...

To see my Hustle page or pledge me: Click Here…

To see my website about Kari, go to www.ClimbingForKari.org

To find someone on my full Kari’s Klimbers team: Click Here…

These climbs always mean so much to me... Being surrounded by people who knew and loved Kari, and by people who know and love me, is something that defies description...and the support I've received from people like you has allowed me to tell so many people about Kari... In the past 12 years, our team has raised well over $300,000.00 - because of people like you... Thank you... I get to do a fair amount of public speaking and, often enough, when I walk into a room, more than one person pulls me aside and says, "You're the one who climbs a hundred stories with your new lungs, and with your donor's friends!!!" And, often enough, they already know Kari's beautiful smile... I am that guy, and I'm proud of that - and more than anything, I want them to know her smile. I will have had her beautiful lungs for 14 years when I climb - and her friend's beautiful kidney for 2 years in May - and they have and will allow me to do more than I'd ever dreamed possible...

PhotoAnd finally, and very important to me - please consider organ & tissue donation, register to be a donor on your state' donor registry, and tell your family how you feel. I know a beautiful girl from Iowa who knew how she felt and she told her family - I think about her every single day.

Love, Steve

Steve Ferkau
Chicago, IL
Kari's Klimbers


p.s. I did manage to get a little media attention in March – I was on WGN TV in a Living Healthy Chicago spot talking about organ donation, and about Kari. And both of our cats mad their TV debut!!! Here is the YouTube video:





Posted on November 04, 2013 by Jenn Amendt Eickman

Some of you may have seen this moving video that aired on KathyLee & Hoda a couple weeks ago...If not, be warned---grab a tissue.

Below is music video compiled by the University of Minnesota's Amplatz Children's Hospital staff and patients. It is set to the song "Brave" by Sara Bareilles, which seems so fitting for the little faces you will see in this short video.

At 0:56, you will see a young girl showing you her scars. This is Lanie. She received a kidney/liver transplant on April 28, 2013 and was a patient at U of M for almost 5 months. I've followed her story since transplant, and she is quite the amazing little girl. I hope to share her story on ReviveHope in the future. She is a brave fighter, and such a big inspiration.


Thank you to all of those in the medical field who care for and love on children like Lanie! You brighten their days and help lighten the burden their parents carry.

Hustle up the Hancock – 2014!!!

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Steve Ferkau

First off – registration is still this coming Friday, November 1st at 8:00am sharp, as it always is – and it will sell out in around an hour! But – the 2014 climb is not at the end of February because the Hancock is undergoing renovations. The 2014 climb will be on April 13th!



KariWestberg_JuniorI started participating in this crazy thing 12 years ago on a lark... I was volunteering at a health fair with Laura, telling people about organ donation - and about Kari, who I had recently learned about... She meant, and means everything to me. RHAMC - Respiratory Health Association - had a booth nearby and, when our duties were finished, I stopped by to tell RHAMC about the beautiful girl who saved my life - about breathing with her amazing lungs - and to thank them for what they do for people like me who struggle, or have struggled for breath.

There were two beautiful chicks manning the booth. You might imagine I had them in tears telling them about Kari. You imagine right. They told me about their stairclimb up the Hancock - that they had half-climb spots available - that I could climb 800 of the 1600 steps with them. I told them I'd think about it...

I went home. I took the stairs 10 floors to our condo... I emailed them back and said I was "in". She told me she might be able to get me into the full climb - 1,622 steps - 94 floors. I think I hesitated - but I thought this would be a neat way to honor Kari and her family and what they gave me, so I didn't hesitate long... I climbed in my first Hustle up the Hancock in 2003.

The next year, 25 people joined with me on my Kari's Klimbers team. 50 joined me the year after - and almost 100 every year since!

Jenn Kathryn Devin Hustle 2005 GirlsOnKari'sFloorMy third year, Kari's friends and volleyball teammates started coming out! For my 10th climb, Kari's mom, her sister, Godmother and cousin also came out! Can you imagine what it's like to have your life saved by someone so precious - then find yourself surrounded by her friends, volleyball teammates, her family, people who loved her dearly - who help you honor and remember Kari???

AlexSteveAnd - if that isn't enough - years after receiving her gift, the drugs I take to keep that gift gradually destroyed my already compromised kidneys, leaving me wondering whether I was at the end of my road, much less whether I would climb again... Kari wore #13 on her volleyball team. #7 was first among several people who asked to be tested to give me a kidney... In May, 2012, #7, Alex, gave me one of her kidneys. Neither of us missed a single climb!!! There is only one thing in the world that means more to me than Kari & Alex - I married her. And, Kari & Alex have given me many, many more years to be with Laura. (Here is a link to a story about what Alex did for me...)

Outside of my climbing activity - in transplant support groups I attend, on Facebook, through friends & acquaintances - I'm surrounded by people waiting for lungs, and waiting for kidneys, hearts & livers. I find it can be incredibly motivating for them to meet a goof who climbs hundred-story buildings with his new lungs, his new kidney and with his donor's friends. Many of them have eventually climbed with me after they've received what they need!!! I connect with people in transplant and organ procurement fields - and with donor families - who often only see the difficult, donation side of transplant... I love helping them understand what they've done for someone... Many of them end up climbing with me too!

I never did this to raise money - I did this to honor Kari... But, we've raised over $300,000.00 in the past 12 years to support the RHAMC and people with lung disease. I do this for all of them... I do this for people who struggle for air - for breath - like I once did... But mostly I do this for Kari - for who she was, for the life she led - and for the life she missed. I do this to honor the gift she's given me - which includes the gift of all of her friends... I do this to remember her - and so others will never forget her. I do this for Alex too, who supported me since her early years at the University of Northern Iowa, and eventually gave me one of her kidneys - and who now lets me tell others that I'm slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa!

And I do this because of so many of you who have given me and my team so much support, and you motivate me to haul my three-sevenths-Iowa-girl-fanny up 1,622 steps every year!

If you’re considering joining us at the climb this year – here is my recruitment letter that I sent out a few weeks ago:

First – the big news! (No, I’m not hanging up my climbing shoes…)(Apparently not ever…) This year we will have a SPRING climb!!! The John Hancock Center is undergoing renovations in early 2014 – so, instead of climbing on the last Sunday in February, the 2014 climb will be on Sunday, April 13, 2014!!! Though the climb is postponed almost two months – registration will still be on Friday, November 1st at 8:00am sharp

2014 will be my 12th climb – and the 11th time my Kari’s Klimbers team has taken the stairs 94 floors, 1,622 steps to the top of the John Hancock Center for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

This past year has been quite good – no more 10” cuts up my belly – and Mabel is working awesomely (the kidney that Kari’s friend, Alex, gave me last year…) Not that any of that stopped me from climbing over the past two years – and there’s nothing on the horizon scheduled to put a damper on this coming climb.

It’s that time of year again… Registration for the 2014 climb is about four weeks away – on Friday, November 1st at 8:00am SHARP!!! Over the years, the Hustle has sold out in roughly an hour – be there on time! As I mentioned above – the climb is on Sunday, April 13, 2014 – not the usual February climb! Registration has gone up slightly to $150 this year.

My www.climbingforkari.org website needs a little updating – but the links should be going to the right places. I will register early on October 15th to create our “Kari’s Klimbers” team (and commit to raising $1000) so that our team will be available to join at 8:00am on Friday, November 1st and there are no delays in registration. DO NOT SIGN UP BEFORE 8:00AM ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1ST – if you do, you too will be committing to raise at least $1000. Registering at or after 8:00am on Friday, November 1st does not commit you to raising anything beyond your registration fee (though, I’m always grateful if you choose to do so!!!) Drop me a line if you’re interested in the Hustle this coming year – or just join my team on November 1st… I’ll send you a reminder with links to the registration page a few days before November 1st. Remember – the full climb sells out in about an hour.

Instructions for joining my team are on my www.climbingforkari.org website… A direct link to the instruction page is HERE… There is a step-by-step document on that page, as well as a link to retrieve your prior username and password that will speed your registration.

And finally – thank you so much for climbing with me in past years, if this is not your first climb… I spoke about quitting a few times in the recent past – I’ve had things I wanted to focus on and this takes a lot of thought and energy (so much of which falls on Laura’s back!!!) But – this is what I do… And Kari’s friends also let me know that quitting didn’t seem to be an option for me.

I do a fair amount of public speaking about organ donation and about Kari (and now Alex) – so much of what I talk about revolves around my participation in the Hustle – and meeting her friends through the Hustle – about the people who come out to support me at the Hustle – about YOU… This climb has become part of who I am and what I do – and YOU have helped make it what it is for me…

Some of you have climbed with me for eleven years… Some of you for several years. Almost every year I meet someone new who knew Kari, and they come out to remember her with me. And for some of you – well, I just met you, and this is crazy, but we’re climbing 94 floors soon – join us maybe?! Through these past twelve years we’ve raised around $300,000 together – that freaking blows my mind… How many times have you been part of a team that has raised that much funding??? I haven’t either. And this has happened because of so many people like you helping me. Thank you. And more special than the money will ever mean to me – you’ve helped me build a little platform to tell the world about Kari, and about Alex, and the gifts they’ve given – and you’ve helped me tell so many others about organ donation.

We’ve had so many recipients, and donor family members, and friends of donors on our team – and when I go places to speak about organ donation, people say, “You’re that guy who climbs 100 story buildings with your new lungs!!!) And so many of them know Kari’s smile, and her name – and that means everything to me. I would have never generated that much excitement alone – I would have never generated that much awareness without all of you.

I know that times are a little tough and cash is a little tight for many of us – and if you can’t make it this year, that’s OK – and thank you for the times you have made it. If you can make it – I’m honored to have you on my team.

Love, Steve

Steve Ferkau
Kari’s Klimbers

THE POWER OF YES: The Power to Heal

Posted on June 17, 2013 by Jenn Amendt Eickman

Written by Tori Bailey

The morning of August 16, 2010, started out as any other morning. I woke up and got ready for work then stopped to give my husband, Jeff, a hug and kiss. A typical morning routine that we never missed — one that put a smile on my face as I rushed out the door to work.

I realized something was wrong that morning when I called him to join me for lunch. His voice was different. I rushed home to find my husband curled up in pain and scared for his life. After rushing him to the hospital, I learned that he had suffered from a brain aneurysm, and I had to say goodbye to my husband, my best friend, and the man who taught me what it was like to truly love and be loved.

As the day moved on, decisions had to be made. There was no question in my mind that Jeff would want to be an organ donor. When I realized that he wasn’t going to make it, my first call was to his best friend, Jerry. You see, Jerry was on the transplant waiting list for a kidney.

Jeff and Jerry used to work together at Toyota of Des Moines. They had a ton in common, and I hit it off right away with Jerry’s wife, Anna. They were great friends of ours, and it was very hard for us to see Jerry so sick. Anna and Jerry’s situation prompted Jeff and me to discuss our end-of-life plans and the importance of organ donation. I’m thankful we did because when I was faced with the decision, I knew exactly what Jeff would want me to do.

I’m pretty sure the nurses in the ICU at Mercy thought I was crazy because as soon as I found out that Jeff wasn’t going to make it, I started bugging them to send someone from the Iowa Donor Network to talk to me. I knew I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to save another person’s life — especially if there was any way that Jeff’s kidney was a match for Jerry. A day later, Jerry had transplant surgery to receive Jeff’s kidney.

There are many things about Jeff that I miss. We loved riding motorcycles, gardening and watching the History Channel. We shared a passion for all things music; he had amazing talent, and I loved to listen to and watch him create. I am blessed in that I can always go back and find comfort in the music he wrote.

I’ve also formed a strong bond with Anna and Jerry. Watching how they’ve thrived since the transplant has been wonderful for me. They have loving children and grandchildren that light up their lives and bring meaning to my loss.

I am so proud that Jeff felt so strongly about being a donor. Even though his passing was traumatic and sudden, his legacy continues in the gift of life he gave to many people.

To see Tori in the Power of Yes video series, click here.

Jeff and Tori Photo

Recent Headlines {May 2013}

Posted on June 03, 2013 by Jenn Amendt Eickman

Olympic Medalist, Chris Klug, shares his story about waiting for a liver transplant.

Chris Klug
photo from 5280.com

"Professional snowboarder Chris Klug—the first-ever transplant recipient to win an Olympic medal—was on the transplant waiting list for six years before he was matched with a liver donor. We spoke with Klug about his transplant, the importance of organ donation, and how he's helping to spread the word through his nonprofit, the Chris Klug Foundation."   {Read more...}

9 time Olympic Medalist, Carl Lewis, throws opening pitch at LSU to raise awareness about Organ & Tissue Donation.


Carl Lewis and Jeffrey Marx
Carl Lewis, left, and Jeffrey Marx hold a photo of the late Wendy Marx at the 2010 'Wendy's Birthday Bash for Organ Donation' at Ruffino's in Baton Rouge. (Photo provided by JEFFREY MARX)

"Track legend Carl Lewis will not try to impress anyone with his arm when he throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Saturday’s LSU baseball game.

He’ll only be trying to save lives."  {Read more...}

Proposal from the pitcher's mound.

And I'll leave you with this heart warming video from a KC Royals game from last week!


If you'd like to read the CNN article, click here.

A Childhood Changed...

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Jenn Amendt Eickman

Shortly after moving to Dallas I met an amazing woman, Teri Rice. We became fast friends, and now I call her my "TX mom." Texas didn't seem so far away from home after she invited us into her family. I soon found another reason why we were meant to be friends. Her husband, Van, is a heart recipient and they are both advocates for organ & tissue donation.

Ellen, their youngest child, and I were talking a few weeks ago about health care, as she is currently in nursing school. Our conversation naturally led to organ & tissue donation and her dad. We talked about how organ donation has changed her life and how different her life would have been without the gift her family was given.

On January 26, 1994 Van, then 33, went to a doctor thinking he had bronchitis, but after a chest x-ray discovered his heart was enlarged. The next day after testing, they found out it was congestive heart failure.

After a 10 day stay at Medical City, Dallas, testing determined he could be a heart transplant candidate. He was able to return home, but his health continued to decline.  

Trevor, their oldest, and Ellen were 5 and 2 1/2. They could not comprehend the enormity of the situation. Van's Cardiologist, Dr. Bonnie Floyd, sat down with the children to show them a model of the heart and explained that their Daddy's heart was too big and it needed to be replaced. Teri says nothing but praise of their Cardiologist, "She was amazing with these little guys, a sweet Christian woman who went above and beyond to help me talk to these little ones in a way that would help them 'understand' what all the commotion was about around our house!" 

On February 17, Van went back to Medical City to receive medication that would keep his heart pumping. He then stayed at Medical City until transplant day, March 3, returned home 8 short days later and has been thriving since!

From our conversations, Ellen does not have many memories, but she can picture how different her life would have been had her father not received a second chance at life. She asked to write a letter to her dad's donor family. (They have limited information about their donor, but know that he was a 23 year old man)

Dear Donor Family,

My name is Ellen and your generosity and selflessness has given me 19+ years of knowing my Dad. Your son’s heart gave my Dad a second chance; a second chance to see my brother and me grow up and a second chance to be part of our family.

I was two when he received your son's heart and I was just starting to talk—my older brother used to talk for me so I really didn’t have to. I was too young to truly know who the man I called Dad was. I didn’t know that my Dad loved to fly airplanes and play guitar. I didn't know how crazy in-love my Dad was with my Mom. I didn't know his passions, his heart, or how sarcastic he could be sometimes. I knew him as my Daddy, and frankly none of the other stuff mattered at the time.

But it matters now. And if it were not for your gift, I would have missed out on his wicked sense of humor and his generous heart. Because of your selflessness, there were the big moments that my Dad was able to see; like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. I would have missed having him there for those special days, but I also would have missed out a lot of the day-to-day things. I would have never heard his daily guitar playing, which I miss now being away at college. I would have missed his daily hugs and occasional kiss on the forehead and playing thumb-wars while we would wait on a table at a restaurant. I would never have known where his "itchy spot" was--the spot on his back that he always liked scratched and when I was younger he would give me a dollar to scratch, yes a whole dollar.

My dad has been a huge influence on my life, and still is. When I have a really bad day—I call him. When I need advice—I call him. He has supported me and loved me and I can’t imagine—I don’t even want to—what my life would have looked like without him in it. Your gift gave me a childhood, and now adulthood, filled with my Dad—and no amount of thanks can truly cover my gratitude.

Eternally Grateful,





So please, as you consider organ & tissue donation, consider the impact you can have and the legacy you could leave. You may not only help a recipient, but allow a daughter to know a father. A wife to spend 19 more years with her husband. And you may never know what love may be brought to this world, just through one selfless act.

Visit here to register in your respective state.


Blessings my friends!



Much thanks to my coauthors: Ellen Rice & Teri Rice



Some additional pictures from the Rice family:

Rice family


WTMX Chicago Radio - National Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness Month Interview!

Posted on April 10, 2013 by Steve Ferkau


Last Sunday, April 7th, I was interviewed with Allison Smith, Vice President of Operations at Gift of Hope, to speak about organ donation and National Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness week. Her are links to the podcast of our interview. The podcast is titled: Podcast: 04/08/13 – With new lungs and a kidney, Chicagoan Steve Ferkau jokes that he’s slowly becoming a girl from Iowa. Eternally grateful, Steve makes a great case for all of us to become organ and tissue donors.


Quite a long title! The podcast is around 25 minutes long – but I think it’s quite a nice interview.

To link directly to the podcast, click here…

To link to the WTMX podcast page where this interview is located, click here…



Each week, 101.9fm The MIX presents special Public Affairs programming to address the issues and concerns facing the people of Chicago and its surrounding communities. Our locally-produced "MIX Matters", hosted by Susan Wiencek, features Chicago-area officials and experts discussing the issues that affect our community. We encourage you to tune in every Sunday morning between 6:30AM and 7:30AM.

"MIX Matters" with Susan Wiencek

Sundays at 6:30am

April is National Donate Life Month so if you haven't signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, now would be a good time. And if you're not sure, our guests today might put you over the top. Allison Smith is Vice President of Operations for the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network, and Steve Ferkau is an organ donor recipient, twice over. He jokes that he's slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa but takes very seriously the life-saving gifts of organ donation that he's received.

Thirteen Years...

Posted on April 07, 2013 by Steve Ferkau

April 7, 2013

Dear Kari…

13 years ago today, you passed away – 13 years ago tomorrow you saved my life. You wore #13 on your uniform and now I see 13 everywhere… And whenever I see the number 13, my heart feels warm – it seems like my whole life now revolves around 13. But, it really revolves around you.

I never imagined breathing, and life, could be this amazing, Kari. You are on my mind always – so is your family. I’d rather you were here, but thank you for what you’ve given me.

It appears that the gift #7 gave me is going to keep #13 wrapped around my heart for a good while longer. And one of #7’s parents is bringing this to you for me.

Love, Lungs & Laura

Thirteen years ago tomorrow, a little after noon, I got a telephone call. By 9:00pm, thirteen years ago tomorrow, I would be under anesthesia and, six hours later a gift would be sewn in place - and the rest of my life would be more amazing than I'd ever dreamed possible. Thirteen years ago today, a family in Iowa lost a daughter and sister. Over the next few years - and still - in my heart that girl would become the most beautiful person who ever lived.

In my email exchanges with Kari's mom, she made it very clear to me that they want nothing more than for me to love and live my life. She made it clear that they never want me to feel guilty about their loss. In the weeks after we first met Kari's family and we learned a little more about one another, the word she used to describe the situation was "bittersweet"... I think they saw the impact that they, and Kari had on my life - but I know it also fanned the embers of losing her - I'm unsure those ever cool completely... I've met dozens of donor families - and I've heard this echoed by so many...

These next few days are always a celebration for me - as these days are for many of us transplant recipients - some of us call it our re-birthday, or a new birthday... I feel it's more special than my birthday ever was... But, as Kari's mom so appropriately put it - it's bittersweet... Knowing Kari through them, and through so many of her friends who I now adore, their loss has become my loss too. My loss will never hold a candle to theirs - yet it still hurts...

I'd lived an amazing life with my crappy, old cystic fibrosis lungs. I'd had so many things that many young CF patients never have -too many of us die before we ever have the chance... I had a wonderful childhood with an amazing, supportive family. I developed a nice career path. I fell in love with, and married an incredibly beautiful girl - she's still as beautiful today, and she's still with me... Yet, back then I was always exhausted. And I did struggle - but I didn't know anything else, so that was oddly OK.  And I was afraid - sometimes a lot afraid. Thirteen years ago, tomorrow, all of that changed. I never imagined breathing could feel like this... I never knew breathing could feel this wonderful and be this easy... I never knew life could be this easy.

I know that Kari did not die because I needed lungs... But, when she died, I lived because of who Kari was. I lived because of the values instilled in Kari by her family - the values they shared with her... I lived because of the actions they took as they lost her...

The note above is on the flowers that a friend placed on Kari's grave, so that they would be there today and tomorrow... Everything good that I have now, is because of Kari and her family. I always know that - even while it's happening.


Please take a moment to think about Kari, and all of the Kari's in the world - and all of their families. Beyond the month that Kari gave me life - April is National Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness month - think about your ability to do this for someone else and register your decision...