Thousands of donor families and recipients take over Washington Park for Donor Dash 5K

Donor Alliance's Donor Dash in 18th year

DENVER – A total of 5,857 participants either ran or walked in Sunday’s Donor Dash at Washington Park.

In the crowd, donor families and donor recipients.

The annual event by Donor Alliance brought together thousands of Coloradans who honored the lives of organ, eye and tissue donors -- and celebrated the lives of their recipients.

“I went to a physical and was told I had stage 3 cancer. I had 12 months to live,” Stephen Salcedo said.

As of Sunday, it had been 17 months since his liver transplant. Before the start of the 5K, he was at the front of the running crowd.

Donor Alliance found that nearly 2,500 people between Colorado and Wyoming are in need of a life-saving operation. Researchers estimate roughly 120,000 other people across the U.S. are waiting for transplants.

Denver7 found Bill Spear in a crowd of hundreds. His team of more than 220 people registered for the 5K, in honor of his son Evan who died at 19-years-old.

“It’s not a silver lining, but it’s a very bright light in an otherwise dark time,” Bill said.

In the two years since Evan’s death, Bill said Evan’s organ and tissue donations have saved four people. “He’s quite a hero in my mind."

Evan, 19, was added to the list of nearly 250 heroes pictured at the event’s Donate Life Garden.

One of the younger donors was Elijah Hernandez, 10.

Elijah’s family told Denver7 the young boy died suddenly. This was the third year his parents had participated in the Donor Dash.

“Honestly kind of mind-blowing to think that he's still somewhere here on earth,” his mom, Samantha Hernandez, said.

His parents, VJ and Samantha Hernandez, described Elijah as selfless in life. So, when doctors asked whether they considered organ donation after his death, “It wasn't even a question to us... we're like, he wouldn't have it any other way,” Samantha said.

Step-by-step, surrounded by support, donor families and recipients finished the 5K side-by-side. Each remembering those who gave the ultimate gift -- the gift of life.

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