Meet our managers
Meet Justin Plas, our Team Ohio Co-Manager for the Cleveland area. Justin is a two-time kidney recipient. At 19, Justin's kidneys failed due to Goodpasture's syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease. After spending several months on dialysis, his first transplant took place on January 30, 2003 and was a living-related donation from his father, Marty. The kidney functioned for 10 years when he was told a second transplant would be necessary. Although many loving family members were tested, Justin's youngest sister Allison was a match. She bravely donated her kidney April 26th, 2013 at the Cleveland Clinic. Through these life saving gifts Justin was able to remain active participating in the Transplant Games in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2016 competing in track and field, table tennis, basketball, volleyball, bocce ball, and the 5K run/walk. Being able to feel the rush of competition is fun but the most rewarding experience of the Transplant Games is the comradery that comes with the celebration of all that make Transplantation possible. Justin resides in Akron with his wife Susan and two boys Nathan and Benjamin. He looks forward to continue the growth and the success of team Ohio.
Meet Tonya Gomez, our Team Ohio Co-Manager for the Toledo and Dayton area. Tonya received the gift of life in the form of a double lung transplant on 5/25/04 due to Cystic Fibrosis at Cleveland Clinic. 11 years later, she is thankful to her donor, Adam, and his family for saying yes to donation. With her life saving gift, Tonya has participated in the Transplant Games since 2006 competing in track and field, badminton, table tennis, basketball, volleyball, ballroom dancing, and the 5K run/walk. Tonya feels earning medals is just a bonus that she has been fortunate to achieve. She has given her medals to her donor family in honor of her donor Adam.
Meet our Co-Manager for the Cincinnati area, Joe Grigsby. When we asked him about why he was involved in Team Ohio, here is what he had to say.- "I knew I would need a transplant to be able to extend my life due to cystic fibrosis, but I never knew life after transplant would be this good. I got involved with Team Ohio just months after my transplant because I wanted to show others what the power of transplant was. After transplant I knew I wanted to do something to use my new lungs to not only keep them healthy but to honor my donor. When my wife and I attended our first games in Houston, just talking to others, sharing our stories, and hanging out with people who truly understood what the gift of life, was the biggest highlight. Because of that experience, I knew I wanted to get more involved. Since my mother is also a recipient and received the gift of sight with a cornea transplant, my family wants to do all we can to help others who may be waiting for their gift. I am looking forward to meeting even more members of the team in June and the fun of competition to use the gift I was given. Go Team Ohio!"
Meet our Co-Manager for the Columbus area, Victoria Holmes-Schmalstig. She is a three-time kidney recipient from living donors. Her last transplant was March 4, 2003 from her brother, Michael Holmes. She has attended the Transplant Games in 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2016 competing in volleyball, bowling, basketball and swimming events. She is married to fellow Team Ohio member and kidney recipient, Tony Schmalstig. She currently lives in Newark, Ohio and looks forward to helping with Team Ohio in any way that she can.
Meet our liasons
Hello! We are David, Jean, and Derrik Peterson, and we are Donor Family Liaisons for Team Ohio. We lost our 17 year old daughter and sister, Brook on Aug. 22, 2008 in a car accident. She was able to save the lives of 3 others by donating her two kidneys and her liver. After her passing we became involved with Life Connection of Ohio as volunteers, and in 2010 we were given the chance to go to the Transplant Games in Madison WI. After that, we were hooked and have been going to the games ever since. While at the 2014 games in Houston, TX we were asked to become Donor Family Liaisons. We are very proud to take on this roll and hope that we will make other donor families feel comfortable and become as excited as we are about the games. Our goal is to support, explain, and encourage other donor families to participate in as many programs and opportunities as they can while at the games.
Meet Martin Plas, a Team Ohio living donor liaison. When we asked Martin about stepping into a liasion role he said "My decision to save my son’s life was neither brave nor courageous but a reflection of the circle of life. The journey, process, and results of becoming his donor is what motivated me to be a Living Donor Liaison."
Meet Edward Drake II, our Team Ohio Pediatric Liaison who is a kidney recipient. Just before Edward’s 21st birthday, during a routine physical, he received the disturbing news that both of his kidneys had completely failed and he would have to begin dialysis the very next day. During the duration of his dialysis treatments, he often questioned, “why me, why now?” Then he realized, “why not me? Why not apply my experiences to offer hope to others and to help others fight organ failure and other life threatening illnesses as I am doing?” Through pain, fear, and faith, along with a passion to help youth like himself, Edward was inspired to form The YNOTT? Foundation (Youth Needing Organ & Tissue Transplants). Success was given a new meaning.
On October 8th, 2008 Edward received a kidney transplant. He was extremely pleased to see the kindness of others and his faith had paid off. He held The YNOTT? Foundation and his commitment to helping others responsible for his blessing. Edward believes he was rewarded a second chance at life and has made it his life mission to help impact the lives of others.
The 2014 transplant games in Houston,Texas was Edward’s first appearance at the games. He won the Gold medal in high jump with a record breaking jump. He’s extremely excited to participate in this year’s game and avenge TEAM OHIO early tournament loss to Team Philadelphia in Basketball. Edward said “the transplant games means the world to me! It’s an opportunity for me to spread awareness about the importance of organ & tissue donation. I have the privilege to represent the great state of OHIO, my donor family, and my foundation in a great way. Most importantly, I get the pleasure of being able to share experiences with individuals like myself whose lives have been impacted by organ failure and/or organ donation”.
Meet Justin Jones, a Team Ohio Living Donor Liason. He was born on FEBRUARY 1, 1979 and on March 10, 2009 he gave the gift of life to his mother, by donating my left kidney to her. I am originally from Ironton, Ohio and for 17 years he worked for Walmart as a Co-Manager until 2016 when he retired. He is an avid golfer and computer enthusiast. He began volunteering for Lifeline of Ohio in 2013 and loves it still. "The organ donation community is something I did not know existed until I became an organ donor." His mother was on dialysis for four years and everyday he asked her if he could get tested to see if he was a match but being the mother that she was, she didn't want to put that kind of pain on one of her own children.
He hopes one day that he could help even more in the community and maybe even be an altruistic donor for something other than a kidney. His first transplant games were in 2016 where he medaled in golf doubles with his great friend Sam. "I got to meet several great people there that I will know for a lifetime. I hope to compete in many more Transplant Games and also to spread the word of what a great thing Organ Donation is!!!!"
Meet Matt Arrasmith, Team Ohio Tissue/Cornea Liaison and a double tissue recipient. Matt’s connection to donation is a unique one. At the age of 14 he was very active and had just finished up the 8th grade football season. Matt had a goal of completing an upcoming half marathon and began training for it. It was at that time that he started to experience pain in his knee. After visiting the doctor and undergoing tests, and an eventual biopsy, Matt’s world was turned upside down. A week after his 15th birthday Matt was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, called chondrosarcoma, in his left femur. He was told that he would have to undergo a round of surgeries and that it was possible that he could lose his leg at the hip.
There was a silver lining, however. Because the tumor was contained inside the bone there was a new procedure that could be performed to salvage Matt’s leg. It involved removing the 6-inch portion of bone containing the tumor and replacing it with donor bone and a titanium plate and screws. After two surgeries, the procedure was a success. Matt’s leg was saved because someone made the selfless decision to be a donor.
Later, in 2011, Matt went on to have another 3 surgeries to address failing hardware that held the donor bone in place and received a second amazing gift of life, in the form of another donor bone. The idea that two families had to experience tragedy so that he could have a better quality of life is not something that is lost on Matt. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how different my life might have been without the kindness and generosity of two complete strangers and their families”, Matt said.
While competing in Cleveland for Team Ohio in the 2016 Transplant Games Matt won a silver medal in the golf competition and took home bronze in darts. As a competitive person, Matt can’t wait for the 2018 Transplant Games in Salt Lake City where he plans to go for gold in these events along with Texas Hold ’em poker and bowling. Matt shared his thoughts on what The Transplant Games mean to him, “The Games give us a great opportunity to raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation. It also means so much to be able to meet new friends who have been through similar challenges and can relate to you.”
Meet Tifiro Cook, Team Ohio Minority Liason. As an 18-year-old freshman college football player Tifiro was living his dream, when in a split second his life changed forever. A fitness enthusiast, when Tifiro experienced heart-pounding pain during a practice session, he knew something was terribly wrong. Two days later and 22 pounds heavier, Tifiro was diagnosed with Glomerulonephritis, a kidney disease.
Returning to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio—far from the sunny football practice fields he so enjoyed in California—Tifiro underwent treatment and a kidney transplant. Four years later, his body rejected his sister’s donated kidney and Tifiro entered the world of dialysis. For some, this grueling schedule would thwart any sense of normalcy, but not for Tifiro. An avid bodybuilder and personal trainer, Tifiro balanced the need to keep his body healthy through good nutrition and dialysis, with his desire to keep his mind healthy as well through his commitment to fitness and training his clients.
Still living with his “glass half full,” Tifiro was approached by a good friend adamant to donate her kidney for a second transplant. Discovering she was not a match, Jacqueline researched and discovered a groundbreaking paired donation program at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Linking incompatible donor/recipient pairs with an alternate compatible pair, this program played a pivotal role in creating the life Tifiro leads today. Undergoing a successful second transplant in 2007—after 60+ days in the hospital undergoing plasmapheresis to drastically reduce the levels of antibodies in his system—Tifiro emerged stronger than ever.
Meet Pat McEntee, Team Ohio liason. Pat was diagnosed with multiple congenital heart defects in 1996 that eventually led his heart to begin failing in 2011. In 2014 he was evaluated for transplant and immediately approved. Within two days of being listed, he had a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted. For nearly three years, the LVAD kept him alive and healthy enough to await a still needed transplant. In July of 2017 he had a mild stroke caused by a clot in the LVAD, which raised the urgency to find a donor heart. Fortunately that call came less than a month later and on August 13, 2017 at the Cleveland Clinic, Pat received the gift he had waited 1068 days for. In 2016, Pat and his wife Amy attended the 2016 Donate Life Transplant Games of America in Cleveland as supporters. They both competed in and completed the 5k Gift of Life Walk/Run (Amy ran, Pat walked...very slowly). That was the only event they were eligible to participate in at the Games as supporters. Pat looks forward to having the opportunity to compete for the first time as a recipient in the 2018 Transplant Games in Salt Lake City.
Justin Plas, Team Co-Manager (Cleveland area)
Tonya Gomez, Team Co-Manager (Toledo-Dayton area)
Joe Grigsby, Team Co-Manager (Cincinnati area)
Victoria Holmes-Schmalstig, Team Co-Manager (Columbus area)