When her eyes opened in a hospital room, Holly Werlein had no idea she'd undergone a liver transplant surgery. What's more, the 21-year-old from Traverse City could not imagine that a few years later, she would be founding the Holdol Wear Clothing line and acting as Special Advisor to the Transplant Games of America.
Holly is turning her sudden acute liver failure and subsequent status one transplant surgery into awareness and success. After moving to Grand Rapids to be closer to her sisters, she got involved with the Transplant Games and set out to educate and inspire others to become registered life-saving organ donors. In Michigan alone, there are 2,938 people on the transplant waiting list. Nationally, there are more than 113,000 people.
"At 21 years old, it was quite life-changing. Obviously after I recovered, it became my mission to create positive change and spread organ donation awareness," she says.
Holly went to college to study graphic design which she puts to work on her clothing line. Holdol Wear sells adult and kids' t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, yoga pants, and a message–Donate Life. Holly designs the logos and encourages her customers to tout their support for organ donation. A percentage of her proceeds benefits the Twenty Million in 2012 campaign and helps with the trip costs to the 2013 World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa. .
Click here to learn more about the Holdol Wear Workplace Challenge.
With the rest of her time, Holly is training and planning for the 2012 Transplant Games, taking place on Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus on July 28-31.
"I never thought I would be a part of something so amazing. I never thought I would be helping to plan the transplant games. My life is surreal sometimes," she says.
Holly is excited to spread the message of organ donation, but also to give West Michigan's economy a little boost with the games. The games are put on by the West Michigan Sports Commission.
"So far, there are three thousand hotel rooms booked…There are going to be thousands of people here, and obviously it'll be good for the economy, but also it is really going to help donor registration," she says.
The games take place in different U.S. locations every other year. On the off year, the games go abroad. Holly competed on swimming, volleyball, track, bowling, and badminton teams for the Transplant Games since she got involved in 2008. She's competed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Madison Wisconsin, Australia, Sweden, and she's heading to South Africa in 2013. But she is particularly excited to compete in games hosted in her own town.
Holly serves on Michigan’s Organ Donation Advisory Committee and was named one of twelve inspiring women by Donate Life, and she lives the title everyday with her untiring mission to encourage people to sign up to become organ donors. Because Michigan had one of the lowest number of organ donors, Holly is inspired herself by Secretary of the State, Ruth Johnson for her efforts to increase awareness.
"The numbers have gone up drastically and we have had record breaking months, which is awesome," Holly says. "You can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to fifty people with just one person. Most people don't know that."
Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses.