An extraordinary Christmas gift - the gift of life
There are people who would walk a mile in Tony Kampmann's shoes. But ask them to get on board with him, and you'll hear a different story.
"Oh yeah, people all think it's crazy. They all think I'm nuts." Kampmann said.
For nine years Tony and his bike has been a staple of the rural roads all over Elkton. It started as a hobby.
"I went out to Park City with the wife one time and saw everybody do it there. I came home, got my own and have been riding since," he said.
But it has become so much more. Thursday he sets off for a journey, traveling from Elkton into Minnesota, and he won't stop there.
Tony is on his way to the Transplant Games, an 850-mile ride he's been planning for six months. It will be just him, two wheels and the open Midwest roads. He's making the trip because he knows first hand how important organ donations are. He is an organ donor. And the person who now holds his DNA is a woman he sees every day.
Tony’s wife, Jennifer, battled a genetic kidney disorder for years. She was sitting on a transplant list when he got tested. He was a match. Tony says doctors told him the couple had a better chance of winning the lottery than being a match for each other. She received his kidney on Christmas Eve, 2008.
"I didn't think much of it until they explained to me that they're all shocked it happened that way," he said.
His wife recovered; so has he. But the story isn't over. Now Kampmann rides, asking others to donate or at least to consider it. He's a living example that life goes on beyond donation, and maybe even gets better.
"You're short a body part, kidney, part of a lung, liver, whatever you donate, your life is going to be the same as it was before," he said.
And though they may not be willing to join in Kampmann's journey, the whole Elkton community is supporting him. As he bikes aside rural cornfields, citizens are chipping in for the cause, buying shirts and dropping donations in buckets. He hoped to raise $1,500 in donations but passed that goal already. Now he's focused on the message he wants to send: be an organ donor, tell your family, and don't be afraid.
"Your lifestyle doesn't change. You can do what you did last year," he said.
Kampmann plans to bike about 100 miles a day on this journey. His next goal is to bike the Rocky Mountains from Canada to New Mexico.