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From tragedy, a Stow family changed three lives with organ donations

Keira Christie died unexpectedly from an asthma attack on Oct. 22, 2017, when she was just 11 years old.

But in a way she lives on, because Keira was an organ donor.

When Keira was in the hospital and death was imminent, doctors asked her mother Kristy and father Scott, of Stow, if they wanted her to be an organ donor.

“We said yes,” Kristy said.

Keira’s kidneys went to a 55-year-old woman in Michigan and a 60-year-old man, and her eye corneas and heart valves were donated to a research facility. Her liver went to 9-year-old Joslynn Mayhew of Wheelersburg, Ohio, who had two different kinds of cancer in her liver.

“It’s a really good feeling that Keira was able to do this for three recipients,” said Kristy. “I heard that the two people who received the kidneys are doing great, which is nice. Joslynn was very sick. Without the transplant, who knows what would’ve happened? They had different offers for different livers, but the surgeons were thinking each time that it just wasn’t the right fit. They said Keira’s liver was the perfect match.”

Joslynn had been on the transplant list for only about 10 days when her mother, Jodi, and stepfather, Aaron Mowery, learned that a donor was found.

“Jodi and Joslynn had left that day and gone to Columbus to have another round of chemo,” Aaron recalled. “They were actually walking in the room with the chemo when they were called and were told, ‘Hey, we have as perfect a match as we’re going to find.’ I left work at that time and met Jodi and Joslynn in Cincinnati. I remember leaving and going to the hospital and being so excited and happy that Joslynn was getting the transplant she needed, and on the other side of it, I remember crying the entire evening. I’ve been with Joslynn since she was 3 1/2 years old, so she’s as much mine as my own kids are. The transplant went very well.

“When we go to our appointments, which are very few and far between now, doctors consider Joslynn to be their poster child. She’s had no problems, no issues. She plays softball, she plays volleyball, she cheerleads, she’s just a normal smart-aleck teenager. She’s pretty normal. We, knock on wood, haven’t had any issues from the time she had her surgery.”

“It's nice to see Joslynn doing so well,” said Kristy.

“It’s remarkable how much Keira and Joslynn look alike,” Aaron said. “It’s almost creepy.”

Joslynn wanted to meet the donor family, and it was worked out for that to happen.

“It was a double-edged sword because I really hated that Scott and Kristy had to lose a child at such a young age. It was pretty rough. It’s really tough meeting them in this situation because I wish it wasn’t this way,” said Aaron. “We keep in touch with them on a regular basis. We camp together numerous times a year. They come to our house, and we go up there as much as we can. They’re absolutely amazing people. They’re some of the best friends we have.”

Several months after Keira passed away, Kristy’s good friend, Elisa Grecar, mentioned to Kristy that she had been at a function called “Gift of Life Walk and Run,” put on by the organization Lifebanc every August at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls. Lifebanc is a non-profit organization located in Warrensville Heights that takes care of organ donations. It is one of the original seven independent organ procurement organizations in the United States.

“The ‘Gift of Life Walk and Run’ is a way to raise money for Lifebanc,” Kristy said. “People put together teams in memory of somebody or to honor somebody. Elisa was like, ‘This is something I want to do. I want to make a team for Keira.’ I was like, ‘Well, that would be great. That’s fine.’ So Elisa put this team together in the summer of 2018, and she and I are team co-leaders. Well, Keira’s nickname had been ‘Kini Bini’ for a long time, so we called it Team Kini Bini. There’s a 5K race and a one-mile walk. More than 100 teams participate. We try to raise as much money as we can. They have speakers that come, too. It’s like an all-morning event.”

The Christie family has taken up the cause of raising money for Lifebanc, one of the country's primary organ donation nonprofits. Submitted photo

Team Kini Bini sponsors separate, smaller fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for Lifebanc. There was a golf outing this past June. The first “A Night at the Races” event will be held Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Stow Youth Baseball Hall. Supporters attending the event will enjoy an evening filled with friends, a buffet dinner, drinks, betting, side boards and, of course, horse racing. The actual races are videos of nine past live events. Additional excitement will come from the ability to buy and name a horse and even sponsor a race. Horse owners will have their names printed in the official race program.

Winning horse owners will also receive a trophy and a $40 prize. Race sponsors will have their names printed in the program, displayed on the screen on race night and announced prior to the race. Tickets are available online at TeamKiniBini.com for $40 per person. A special couple’s package includes two tickets plus the purchase and naming rights of a horse for $100. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Dinner is at 6:15, with races starting at 7.

Said Aaron: “Being able to keep Keira’s name and her life alive through what we do with transplant awareness and raising the money and donating 100 percent of what we raise to Lifebanc, it’s hard to put into words.”

Kristy and Elisa are always trying to come up with different ways to raise money for Lifebanc.

“Lifebanc has a goal of $200,000 per year, so you’re trying to help them reach the goal that they want,” Kristy said. “Team Kini Bini has raised $105,000 since its inception, so we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars every year.

“We try to get Keira’s name out there and just try to raise money in her name.”

For more information about Team Kini Bini, visit TeamKiniBini.com or call 330-696-1380.