Inspirational patients marched side-by-side in an emotional launch of the British Transplant Games in Sheffield last night.
Young and old transplant survivors stood shoulder to shoulder as hundreds proudly paraded from Devonshire Green to Sheffield City Hall in a colourful procession.
Some wore medals from previous transplant games they had competed in, others cheerfully waved flags, but all were united in raising awareness of the miracle of organ donation.
Teams from all over the country, and across the world, had travelled to Sheffield to take part in the Westfield Health games.
Mary Albram, aged 69, was part of the Australian team.
The liver transplant survivor, of Queensland, said: “The games are just so inspirational and there is a great atmosphere.
“Today I went to see a family which had buried a friend last week and they donated his organs. They said seeing me had inspired them and made them realise that the loss was helping someone.
“It was very emotional.
“You never have anything to do with transplantation until you need a new organ.
“But we say thank you every day to our donors and this is also what the games are about.”
The games are set to transform Sheffield’s sporting venues into a hub or activity over the next three days as well as boosting the local economy by £1.5m.
Transplant survivors will compete in everything from archery to tennis at venues including Forge Valley School in Stannington and Don Valley Stadium.
Rawmarsh resident Michael Lord, aged 28, is competing for the Sheffield team for the first time after having a kidney transplant in 2007.
He said: “It was in Sheffield this year so I thought it was the perfect chance to say thanks to my donor and raise awareness of organ donation.
“It is something everyone should support because you might need an organ one day.
“I didn’t think about it when I was younger.”
Last night the procession - led by the England football band - kicked off a spectacular opening ceremony inside the city hall.
Spectactors who had lined the streets joined survivors and special guests for presentations.
The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun Vickie Priestley, spoke as did Graham Moore, the chairman of Westfield Health and the local organising committee for the games.
And the chairman of charity Transplant Sport Andrew Eddy also lit the Donor Family Flame to signal the start of the event.
Bollywood dancers topped off the celebrations, which came after The Star’s Gift of Life campaign recruited over 22,000 local people to the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Melissa Slaney, of Bakewell, was attending her eighth games after a kidney transplant 17 years ago.
The cyclist said said: “It just shows what we can do now we have had a transplant - I’m fitter now than I ever have been.”