DENVER — Early Sunday morning, thousands will walk and run around Washington Park as the 18th annual Donor Dash returns to Denver.
Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville will be among them.
He and his family will participate in the 5K for the second straight year to honor organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate the resulting recipients.
"It's a hard morning," Studesville said. "It's bittersweet. You hear tons of great stories, you meet fantastic people and you see all the good that is done through organ, eye [and] tissue donation. You know for me, personally, it's hard because I spend my time thinking about my parents, particularly my mom, and what she did."
In 2013, Studesville's parents, Alfonso and Janet Studesville, were killed in a motorcycle accident when an 18-wheeler crossed into their lane on a Texas highway.
Just two years before the accident, his mother donated a kidney to Eric's father's best friend, Merritt Norvell.
In partnering with Donor Alliance, which sponsors the Donor Dash, Studesville found an outlet to help their memory live on.
"I wanted to do something to continue the legacy of giving and talk about how unselfish that was to do something for somebody else and potentially save a life, which she did," Studesville said.
The cause is both worthy and necessary. In Colorado alone, more than 2,500 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
When a donor is found, however, the results can be exceptional.
"It swells you with pride to know that the person that she donated her kidney to, Merritt Norvell, is doing well," Studesville said. "He and I are in contact with each other and talking on a regular basis. So she's still here, and she's a part of it. It's a great day too in that regard."
The event also gives Studesville and his family a chance to give back to the Denver community and connect with a number of families who find themselves in similar situations.
But as much the event does to raise money and awareness for the non-profit Donor Alliance, it also provides for Studesville to reflect.
"I think it's a time to remember, as hard as that is," Studesville said. "My mom and my father, certainly. I think it's a time to appreciate that we all have a chance to make a difference."
Those looking to participate in the 18th annual Donor Dash on July 16 at Washington Park in Denver may click here for more information
To register as an organ, eye and tissue donor in Colorado, click here.