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Senator Sharon Runner, double-lung transplant recipient and Donate Life advocated, has died

Sharon Runner Official HeadshotThe California Donate Life community has lost an incredible advocate for organ donation. California State Senator Sharon Runner, a double-lung transplant recipient and member of the Donate Life California board of advisors, passed away on July 13, 2016 surrounded by family and friends.

Senator Runner spent her life in service to others. In 1977, she and her husband, George, opened what has become one of the state’s largest private schools, Desert Christian Schools. After serving on various other boards and committees, she was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002, and then to the California State Senate in 2011 and again in 2015.

At age 30, Senator Runner was diagnosed with Scleroderma, or CREST syndrome, which can affect a person’s lungs, as it did in her case. Later, while serving in the State Assembly, she began having trouble breathing at higher elevations. Eventually her doctors realized she had lost nearly 60 percent of her lung capacity and she was placed on the national transplant waiting list.

On February 24, 2012, her prayers were answered with a double-lung transplant, thanks to the selfless generosity of an organ donor. Her transplant allowed her to return to a life of service, which included continuing her duties as a state senator and volunteering for Donate Life California. In 2014, she was honored to be a float rider on the 2014 Donate Life Float in the annual Rose Parade and in 2015, she accepted an invitation to join the Donate Life California board of advisors. Most importantly, Senator Runner’s transplant gave her four more years with her husband, their children and grandchildren.

“Senator Runner was a tireless advocate for all Californians and we value her contributions to the Donate Life community,” said Eric Burch, Donate Life California CEO. “We mourn her loss and send our thoughts and prayers to the Runner family.”

Senator Runner is featured in our Stories of Hope, and you can read more about Senator Runner and her service to California in the Sacramento Bee.

Donor Network West and San Ramon Regional Announce Innovative Organ Recovery Partnership

Donor Network West(San Ramon, CA) February 12, 2016 – Donor Network West, the organ procurement organization that heals lives through organ and tissue donation in northern California and Nevada, announced a partnership with San Ramon Regional Medical Center. Under the collaboration, the first of its kind in California, specific organ donors will be transferred to the hospital’s facilities as a way to accommodate a more certain time frame for donor families for the recovery of organs.

Organ recovery has traditionally been performed at community hospitals, utilizing the hospital’s resources. Many times, the requested time frame from donor families is difficult to accommodate within the busy hospital setting. This agreement allows for the transplant team to complete recoveries at San Ramon Regional’s on-campus Ambulatory Surgery Center, located across the street from Donor Network West’s headquarters.

“Honoring and respecting the donors and families that we serve is at the core of our mission. This change in practice will help relieve some of the organ recovery timing stress for these families and allow for better planning during a very difficult time,” says Cindy Siljestrom, CEO of Donor Network West.

Donor Network West partners with 175 hospitals in 40 counties. Along with a more certain time frame for donor families, transferring specific organ donors to San Ramon Regional Medical Center will improve the logistical challenges of transporting staff and surgeons across the region.

“We are excited to partner with the Donor Network to perform this important work, and look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the tri-valley and beyond,” said Gary Sloan, CEO of San Ramon Regional Medical Center.

In celebration of this new partnership, and as a symbol of San Ramon Regional Medical Center’s commitment to saving lives, the Donate Life flag will be raised at the hospital. The flag pays tribute to donors and recipients whose lives have been touched by organ, eye and tissue donation.

There are 10,600 people waiting for an organ transplant in northern California and Nevada, of which 900 reside in Contra Costa County. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and a tissue donor can heal more than 50 others. Anyone can register as a donor at or at the DMV.

About Donor Network West
Donor Network West saves and heals lives by facilitating organ and tissue recovery for transplantation. The organization was established in 1987, and is an official Donate Life organization accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Federally designated to serve 40 counties in northern California and Nevada, Donor Network West partners with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the state-authorized donor registries. For information, visit, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

About San Ramon Regional Medical Center
San Ramon Regional Medical Center is a 123-bed, acute-care hospital with 24-hour emergency care, inpatient and outpatient services. After undergoing an on‐site evaluation and demonstrating compliance with nationally developed standards for stroke care, San Ramon Regional has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for certification as a Primary Stroke Center, serving as a Stroke Receiving Hospital for Contra Costa County. Other hospital programs include: Blood Conservation, Breast Center, Cardiac Care, Cancer Care, Diabetes & Nutrition Services, Birthing Center, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Spine & Joint Treatment, a Wound Care Center and Outpatient Therapy Services. For more information, visit


Delano Man to be Honored as an Organ Donor Hero on the Donate Life Float in the 2016 Rose Parade®


Sandra Gutierrez puts the finishing touches on the Floragraph honoring her brother, Michael Robles, as her family and Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel (left) look on. Michael is one of 60 organ, eye and tissue donors being honored on the 2016 Donate Life Rose Parade Float.

DELANO, Calif., Dec. 2, 2015 – Donate Life California and family of Michael Robles, a much-beloved Delano man, put the finishing touches on a floral portrait of his likeness, called a floragraph, during a special unveiling ceremony at the Delano office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Michael’s floragraph will be placed on the Donate Life float, “Treasure Life’s Journey,” for the 2016 Rose Parade® in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

Michael became a liver and kidney donor in April 2006 after suffering a sudden heart attack. The 53-year-old was known in the town of Delano for his Harley Davidson Motorcycle, his love of flowers, and his devotion to his family. He is one of 60 organ, eye and tissue donors being honored for their gifts of life on the 2016 Donate Life float.

(left to right) Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel; Sandra Gutierrez; Michael Robles' family

(left to right) Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel; Sandra Gutierrez; Michael Robles’ family

“I’ve always been so proud of Mike – proud to be his sister. And he would be proud of us for making the decision allowing him to be a donor,” said Sandra Gutierrez, who recently retired from the Delano DMV. “Our town is largely Hispanic and, while working at the DMV, I encountered many people who were hesitant to sign up to be organ donors. I told them my brother helped others to keep living.”

The DMV is an important Donate Life California partner, with 95 percent of California’s 12.7 million registered organ, eye and tissue donors having checked “YES!” while applying for or renewing their California driver license or ID.

Sandra Gutierrez and Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel

Sandra Gutierrez and Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel

“Michael took good care of his family before his death. Now, he’s taking good care of others through organ donation,” said Charlene Zettel, Donate Life California CEO. “With his gifts of life, he leaves a legacy of kindness and generosity – something we wish for all Californians. Donate Life California is proud to sponsor Michael’s floragraph for the Donate Life Float. We hope the millions watching the Rose Parade will be inspired by his story and choose to Donate Life.”

“The act of organ and tissue donation weaves together a tapestry of donors and recipients, of hope and remembrance, and beloved family and friends who live on through the most miraculous of gifts,” adds Tom Mone, Chairman of the Donate Life float committee and CEO of OneLegacy, the nonprofit organ, eye and tissue recovery organization serving the greater Los Angeles area. “The riders, walkers, and floragraph honorees who will accompany the 13th annual Donate Life float each have an amazing story to tell.”

More than 22,000 people in California await life-saving organ transplants. Despite the vital need, only about 40 percent of adults in California are signed up to be organ, eye and tissue donors, putting California well below the national average of 50 percent. In addition to the DMV, signup on the registry is available at

Each day in the U.S., 22 people die waiting because the organ they needed did not come available in time. Organs needed for transplant are heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas or intestine.

Tissue transplants, meanwhile, save and heal lives. Tissues for transplant include cornea, skin, heart valves, bone tissue, tendons, veins, ligaments and cartilage. More than a million tissue transplants are done each year, and the surgical need for tissue has been steadily rising. Corneal transplants restore sight to nearly 50,000 people each year.

Fast Facts from Donate Life California:

  • One in five on the U.S. organ transplant waiting list lives in California.
  • All major religions support or permit organ, eye and tissue donation.
  • You’re never too old or sick to be a registered organ, eye and tissue donor.

About the Donate Life Float in the 2016 Rose Parade®:

The 2016 Donate Life Rose Parade Float, “Treasure Life’s Journey,” represents the journey of new life, health and adventure that begins with every donation of organs, eyes and tissue. In their passing, deceased donors open up a world of health to grateful recipients and empower them to contribute to their families, communities and future generations. Donor families find comfort by helping life go on in a remarkable act of love and caring for people they never knew. And Living Donors heroically give of themselves to help friends, family and even strangers. Through its endless power to save, heal and enhance lives, donation is truly the journey of a lifetime. Now in its 13th year, the Donate Life Float is the world’s most visible campaign to inspire organ, eye and tissue donation.

About Donate Life California

Donate Life California is the nonprofit, state-authorized organ, eye and tissue donor registry. Individuals can add their name to the registry by checking “YES!” every time they renew/apply for their driver license or ID card at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This ensures their desire to donate life will be carried out. A pink “DONOR” dot is added to their driver license or ID as a symbol of their decision. Individuals can also sign up online at or As a public service, the registry ensures all personal information is kept confidential and stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel at the time of an actual donation opportunity. The registry is administered by Donate Life California and California’s four nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organizations (OPOs): Donor Network West, Lifesharing, OneLegacy and Sierra Donor Services.

Media contact: Brianne Mundy Page,, 858-220-8351

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