HUNDREDS of children and adults gathered in Sheffield for a joyous celebration of the precious gift of life at the opening ceremony of the 31st Westfield Health British Transplant Games.
All athletes, aged from two to 82, are alive and well because of life-saving transplants made possible by the generosity of organ donors and their relatives.
As many as 900 competitors, who have received new organs such as hearts, liver, lungs,and kidneys, alongside families and friends proudly paraded from Barker's Pool before a rally in the Peace Gardens for the opening of the Games - which feature sports competitions including athletics, swimming and archery at venues across the city until Sunday evening.
The aim of the Games is to encourage patients to regain a healthy life after their operations, to demonstrate the benefits of organ donation and to urge others to sign up the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Fifty-five teams are taking part, with competitors coming under the banner of the hospital where they were treated.
Click here to see Friday's results.
Click here for Thursday's Transplant Games results
Andrew Raftery, chairman of the local organising committee and recently retired kidney transplant consultant at the Northern General Hospital, welcomed athletes and their families and urged people who are not already on the register to sign up and help save a life.
And he stressed the competitors gathered in the Peace Gardens owed their lives to organ donation.
He praised The Star's Gift of Life campaign which has succeeded in recruiting 25,000 readers to the register within six months.
"I would like to thank The Star for signing up 25,000 people in Sheffield," he said.
Christine Evans, chair of charity Transplant Sport UK, said: "We are delighted to be taking the games to Sheffield, which looks set to be a fantastic host for this remarkable event.
"With over 900 athletes taking part, we are expecting bigger crowds than ever, as we highlight the value of organ donation.
"We welcome the people of Sheffield and hope they will join us over the whole games."
More than 1,500 visitors are expected in Sheffield this weekend to support the athletes and add to the party atmosphere.
Last year some 2,800 lives across the UK were saved or dramatically improved thanks to the generosity and courage of donors and their families.
In 2007, there were 23 organ donors who after their deaths saved the lives of 74 people in the Sheffield area but 16 people died waiting for transplants.
There are 401 people currently waiting for a transplant in the Sheffield region and it is hoped the Games could make a difference by increasing awareness on a local level.
Among the athletes at the open ceremony was little Farah Bycroft who will be taking part in The Star Donor 3k Fun Run on Saturday at 7pm at Don Valley Stadium with her grandmother Carol Morris.
Farah had a rare live condition but has survived thanks to Carol donating a section of her own liver - which was successfully transplanted into the now 15-month-old tot.
The liver is the only organ in the body that regenerates itself so in the six months since the operation Carol's liver has grown back to its normal size. And the section donated to Farah will grow with her as she develops.
Carol, 58, from Rotherham, said:" The atmosphere has been amazing. There are so many people here it is truly heart warming.".
By taking part in the Star Donor Run 3k Fun Run - with Farah in a pushchair - Carol hopes to raise greater awareness of the plight of those still waiting and hoping for a life-saving transplant.
During the Games, Rachel Stanley from Evelyn Road, Crookes, will also be flying the flag for South Yorkshire.
Rachel needed a life-saving transplant after developing a sudden heart problem in March 2007 but has bounced back and is living a full and active life once again.
The 13-year-old was placed top of the donor list after doctors told her devastated parents she would die without a transplant.
But just three days later a suitable donor heart became available and Rachel underwent surgery at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital to the relief of mum Suzanne, 41, and Derek, 45.
Activities such as a shopping trip with friends or going to the cinema were ruled out until her immune system could be built up, but now life has returned more or less to normal.
But since then Rachel has got on her dancing shoes again - and will be performing with friends at Hype Dance Academy at the Games' Talent Show being held at Sheffield City Hall tonight.
Rachel, a pupil at Tapton School will also be playing badminton and competing in a ball throwing event in the Games.
Meanwhile, mum Suzanne is taking part in The Star Donor Run.
Suzanne said: "Rachel is doing really well and is fit and health. When she was ill we didn't think she'd ever be back doing her dancing and
"She will be competing with the Freeman team because that's where she had her transplant. We think it is very special the Games are taking place in Sheffield this year."
- The Star's Gift of Life campaign aims to add the names of 25,000 readers to the Organ Donor Register by August, when the 31st Westfield Health British Transplant Games are held in Sheffield.
Click here to go to the Organ Donor Register. You can also sign up for The Star Donor Run.
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