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Astellas and The Chris Klug Foundation Announce Winners of the 2015 Bounce Back Award


NORTHBROOK, Ill., and Aspen, CO., June 4, 2015 – The Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) is pleased to announce the winners of the second annual Bounce Back Award, presented by Astellas. The award goes to two transplant recipients who exhibit a great post-transplant quality of life. Winners were chosen from more than 80 incredible nominations from 23 states. CKF staff and board members selected the two winners.

“Each of the winners has an important story to tell. They are an example for others,” said Walt Johnston, vice president of Marketing at Astellas. “Astellas’ partnership with the Chris Klug Foundation is a way to recognize patients who fully embrace their post-transplant lives and to highlight the possibilities post-transplant life can bring. I am confident that the winners will both inspire and give hope to other transplant recipients." 

The winners and one guest each will win a trip to Aspen, CO, for the Chris Klug Foundation’s 10th annual Aspen Summit for Life weekend Dec. 4-5, 2015. CKF will host the winners in Aspen and provide flights, lodging and tickets to all Summit for Life weekend events. On Dec. 5, the Bounce Back Award will be presented on top of Aspen Mountain in front of 500 racers and CKF supporters. 

The Winners

Marilyn Pongonis, director of communications at Donate Life Ohio, nominated winner Edward Drake, of Columbus, Ohio. “While waiting for a kidney transplant, Edward was inspired to start an organization: Youth Needing Organ and Tissue Transplants (YNOTT),” said Pongonis. “The YNOTT foundation is dedicated to raising awareness, educating youth on healthy living habits, and assisting young transplant recipients emotionally and financially.” Edward is dedicated to raising awareness, particularly in the African American community.  He also to maintains a healthy and active lifestyle and has participated in the Transplant Games of America in track and field. 

Winner Lea Sobieraski, of Lockport, New York, was diagnosed with Wilson’s disease at 20 years old. She had been in great health and was the captain of the SUNY Geneseo women’s basketball team. Her health deteriorated so quickly that she was put at the top of the transplant list and had a lifesaving liver transplant just four months after her diagnosis. Post transplant, Lea reenrolled in college and continues to play on the women’s basketball team. The team made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 Division III Championship, and Lea was named to the NCAA’s Good Works Team. This spring, Lea registered more than 50 organ donors on her campus, and will also give the commencement speech at a local high school. 

“We couldn’t be more excited to meet Edward and Lea this winter in Aspen,” said CKF executive director, Beth Slater. “They have both done so much to encourage organ donation in their communities, and we look forward to honoring them in front of 500 CKF supporters at the 10th annual Aspen Summit for Life, presented by Astellas.”

Becoming a registered organ and tissue donor is a way to have a lasting legacy, and it’s as simple as going to www.chrisklugfoundation.org to sign up.  For more information on this event or on the Chris Klug Foundation, please contact Beth Slater at (970) 618-7120.


About Astellas Transplant

For more than 20 years, Astellas has supported the transplant community. And the Company continues to look for new ways to help transplant patients. That’s why we created Astellas Cares — a program that offers resources, guidance, and personal support for those on the transplant journey. Visit Astellas Cares at https://www.astellascares.com/transplant. 

About Astellas
Astellas is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceuticals. For more information on Astellas, please visit our website at www.astellas.us. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AstellasUS. Visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/AstellasUS. 

About The Chris Klug Foundation

Founded in 2003, The Chris Klug Foundation advocates for organ and tissue donation and inspires those touched by transplantation. Chris Klug was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare disease for which the only cure is a liver transplant. He received a liver transplant and went on to win a bronze medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics, a mere 18 months post transplant. Soon thereafter, Chris started the Chris Klug Foundation. Learn more about the foundation at www.chrisklugfoundation.org


For further information: Beth Slater, Chris Klug Foundation, beth@ChrisKlugFoundation.org, 970-618-7120 OR Marjorie Moeling, Astellas, marjorie.moeling@astellas.com, 224-205-5205.