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Gainesvilles first triathlon inspired by push for organ donations
Rookie Splash and Dash and Super Sprint Triathlon draws 40 at Don Carter State Park
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Julie Burke finishes the final leg of her triathlon Saturday during the Gainesville Rookie Splash Dash and Super Sprint Triathlon at Don Carter State Park. The event benefited Team Green, an organization aimed at increasing awareness of the need for transplant organ donations. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Forty of North Georgia’s finest athletes took to the beaches, streets and paths Saturday at Don Carter State Park for Gainesville’s first-ever triathlon.

The G-ville Rookie Splash and Dash and Super Sprint Triathlon had approximately 40 participants and benefited Team Green, an organization started by Peter Kite.

The event was organized by Jacob Burke and his father Pat, after first hearing of Kite’s story years ago.

“Team Green was started in ’06 to bring awareness to transplant education and donor awareness, the need for donors of all types,” Kite said. “Being a three-time kidney transplant patient, this obviously is important to me.”

Kite was born with in-stage renal failure. His first kidney transplant lasted 16 years. The next was an “incompatible transplant” at Johns Hopkins Hospital, meaning the donor was not a perfect match. But that kidney lasted eight years.

Kite kept getting infections, and he soon needed a third transplant.

A close acquaintance at the time, Kelly Parham, stepped up.

“Almost three years ago, Kelly Parham, a local endurance athlete here in Gainesville, donated a kidney to a fellow he met here at a bike shop,” Burke said. “Just by chance, they were a match.”

Parham said they met at Northstar Bicycle Shop in Dawsonville, when Kite wanted to bike across America and raise awareness for organ donation.

“That’s how the friendship started. He started hanging out with the guys at the bike shop,” Parham said, “We’d all say, ‘Pete, if you ever need another kidney, let us know and we’ll get you one.’ One day he came in and said the doctors had told him his was at 5 percent functionality.”

“I was kind of joking about it at the bike shop at first when Kelly said, ‘I’ll give you a kidney,’” Kite said. “It’s been a little over two years and it’s worked out wonderfully.”

Kite said he hopes to see the triathlon grow and become an annual event.

“This is our first event like this,” Burke said. “It’s not been done before. My father and I teamed up with Dingo Race Productions, and they put on triathlons and events around North Georgia.”

Burke, a Chestatee High School graduate and Hall County native, is now a filmmaker living in California. He spent the last several years working on a documentary called “Cycle of Life,” following Kite and Parham’s story and raising awareness of the importance of living organ donations.

Proceeds from the triathlon Saturday will go toward the final editing process of the film and screenings. The teaser trailer can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/jacobrburke/cycleoflife.

Burke said it was important to him to create a platform to share Kite and Parham’s story.

Kite credited Burke, his father and the team from Dingo Race Productions for their support, calling them “the winners today.”

Kite said he’s had 39 operations thus far. He hopes his 40th is a long way off.

“I think it’s very important to have options,” Kite said. “Piedmont has a good program, Emory has a good program, and what Egleston is doing for kids blows my mind. I’m really thankful for what’s going on in the medical field.”

Burke said the triathlon was an opportunity not only to raise money, but to increase awareness. Parham agreed.

“We’re trying to show all the athletes that anybody who’s healthy can donate,” he said. “It doesn’t affect them long term. I’ve been able to everything I did before, and I think that’s really cool.”

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