Pictured are Mary Engel holding Cali, Jen, Ken and Melissa Engel. Mary's husband, Duane Engel, received a heart transplant 10 years ago. He died as the result of a stroke in September 2009. Melissa is Mary and Duane's daughter. Mary also has a niece who has received three kidney transplants. Following is the article that ran in the June 24, 2010 edition.
Cyclists encourage organ donation By LINDA KENYON Cross-country cyclists Jen Ballentine and Ken Burris received a warm reception when they stopped at The Rush County News on Friday afternoon, June 18. They are making a 7,000-mile trip to raise awareness for organ donation, and soon discovered the staff of the newspaper has an intense interest in the same subject. News staff Mary Engel and Melissa Engel told the couple how their husband and father, respectively, gained 10 years of life because of a heart transplant. Duane Engel died September 2009, but his family is grateful for the additional time they had with him. Ballentine's interest in organ donation comes from the other side of the situation. Her 11-year-old daughter, Alex, died almost 10 years ago and became an organ donor. Ballentine said her daughter saw a public service announcement about organ donation on television when she was 10, and didn't understand why anyone wouldn't do that. "Whoever gets my heart would be able to do back flips," the young gymnast said at the time. Six months later, the girl was hit by a car while walking home from school and died. Six people benefited from the donation of the girl's organs. The couple from North Carolina decided to make the trip across the country in an attempt to encourage organ donations. They plan to meet the boy who received Alex's heart in Denver, Colorado during the journey. They are pedaling TerraTrikes, recumbent-style touring tricycles made in Michigan. They say the trikes are easy to ride, but spent two days in La Crosse recovering from a 100-mile leg of the journey they did on June 16. The couple saved money to pay for the trip, but also rely on donations to help with expenses. Anyone interested in donating can get more information atwww.kenandjennc.blogspot.com.