Kurt's Story

Kurt Penner’s belated Christmas gift will be seeing his breath in the cold winter air alongside the Olympic flame.

Kurt Penner’s belated Christmas gift will be seeing his breath in the cold winter air alongside the Olympic flame.

“Seven years ago, I was days away from dying of emphysema,” explains Penner. But at the eleventh hour, Penner, now 60, was the recipient of a double-lung transplant through the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN).

He’ll be carrying the 2010 Olympic Torch through the streets of Woodstock, Ontario on the morning of December 27 thanks to that donation.

Today, approximately 1,700 people in Ontario are waiting for a life-saving transplant. One organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and enhance as many as 75 others.

“Kurt’s participation in the Olympic Torch Relay is a real Christmas miracle,” says Frank Markel, President and CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network. “It shows what the gift of organ donation can do.”

Before his illness, Penner was an avid hiker and cyclist. With his new lungs, Penner found his second wind. Four years ago, he participated in the London, Ontario World Transplant Games, finishing 16th in a 25-kilometre bike race and winning the gold medal in lawn bowling. He also won medals in bowling and shot put at the Canadian Transplant Games in Edmonton and Windsor.

Now, he’ll close out this year as one of 12,000 Canadians who are taking part in the Olympic Torch’s 45,000-kilometre journey across Canada. Over 90 per cent of Canadians will be able to see the flame as it’s passed from hand-to-hand.
“The symbolism of passing something as life-giving as the light of a torch from one person to another isn’t lost on me, believe me,” Penner says. “It’s a gift I unwrap every day of the year.”