SAN DIEGO — About 6,000 people were inside the San Diego Convention Center Sunday attending the Transplant Games of America.

There’s more than 20 athletic events and 40 other events participants compete in, including table tennis, baseball, singing, ballroom dancing, among others.

The games, which take place from July 29 to Aug. 3, bring together transplant recipients, donors and their families to celebrate life.

Each person inside has their own unique story.

“I had my first transplant when I was 18, a few days after high school,” JP Marzano said.  “I was born with a degenerative kidney disease and it shut down my kidneys by the time I was 14.”

Marzano has had three kidney transplants, and his case is an anomaly. All three people that have donated to him are living, and he knows them personally.

“For so many people just to make it here is a feat,” JP Marzano said. “This is a celebration, it’s why we are here. There’s a spirit here that I wouldn’t find anywhere else in my life.”

He’s been in this community for about 25 years and called it a form of therapy.

The first person to donate their kidney to JP was his dad, Jim Marzano. Jim said he never thought twice and was grateful to be a match. He said parents are not always scientifically a match to their children.

“I’m glad I was able to do it,” Jim Marzano said, adding that being at the event is full circle for his son.

“He was in high school when his kidney first failed and was captain of his tennis team,” Jim said. “Watching him compete is completing that circle that has been missing.”

The event usually happens every two years, but it’s been four years since the games were held because of the pandemic. The games have three missions: celebrating transplant recipients, honoring donors and their families and getting more people on the list to donate their organs.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am, that our organization, that our city is hosting this event. It’s so important because we need to get more donors on the list,” said Chair of the San Diego Chapter of Transplant Games of America Mark Neville, who also served as the CEO of Sports San Diego.

“We want to get more people on the registry. Last year, there were 40,000 organ transplants in the U.S., more than anywhere in the world, which is great, but there were 7,000 people who passed away on the waiting list, we need to do better,” Neville said.

To become a donor and learn more, click here.