Gene Dorsey says two people saved his life the night he received his liver transplant — his donor Karen Martin and her husband, Victor.
“In many states, no matter what you put on your driver’s license, your next of kin has the final say,” Dorsey said. “That’s why it’s important to talk your family about your decision to be an organ donor.”
Both Gene Dorsey and Victor Martin are concerned about plans in discussion by United Network for Organ Sharing to distribute livers nationally instead of regionally. Bigger coastal cities where organ donation lags behind want to take from organs donated in the Midwest, South and Southeast, where donation rates are among the best in the nation.
Martin and Dorsey believe it is better for the patient and the liver to keep donated organs closer to home. Martin says an added benefit is knowing how his wife’s precious of gift of life was received.
“Getting to know Gene has been a blessing for me and my family,” Martin said. “I can’t imagine how we would have connected with another transplant patient and family if Karen’s organ had been flown to either coast.”
Members of the Region 8 transplant community will travel to Chicago Sept. 16, to participate in a public hearing before a UNOS committee on plans to reallocate donor livers from the highest donation regions to the sickest patients in the lowest donations regions. Dorsey and Martin want the committee to postpone plans to reallocate organs, study the issue more and work to increase organ donation among bigger coastal cities.
With a little more than three months to go before the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Band hits the road to Cuba, fundraising has stepped into overdrive.
“Travelling to Cuba is a first for many,” said Jim Mair, professor of music and director of instrumental studies at KCKCC. “Many of our students have never left the Midwest. Going to Cuba is a bonafide ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for most. Plus it’s a great honor to be invited to the 30th annual Havana Jazz Festival. We may be the only college band performing in the festival.”
The KCKCC Jazz Band was invited to perform at the 2014 Havana International Jazz Festival in Havana, Cuba last fall. The festival is Dec. 17 to 22. The band was invited based on its long reputation as one of the premiere community college jazz ensembles in the nation.
The Havana International Jazz Festival started in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses and other Cuban jazz musicians had a concert at the Case de la Cultura de Plaza. The following year, Chucho Valdes, now the president of the festival’s organizing committee, gave another concert. Those yearly concerts morphed into the festival as it is known today.
In addition to attending the festival, the jazz band will have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Havana Historical Centre; tour Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts; visit the Institute Superior de Arte, the country’s top art academy; explore Finca Vigia, where Ernest Hemingway lived for more than 20 years; enjoy tap dancing and live jazz music at Pena de Santa Amalia and learn about the Cuban culture. Any U.S. citizen is allowed to travel to the small country with the appropriate license.
Among the fundraisers planned include the Tea Dance and auction (tickets are currently on sale for the Sept. 14 event), performances at area churches, Jazz Club fundraisers and donations from those in the community. In addition, there will be a Kickstarter campaign that will start soon to raise donations for the trip.
“The students are working hard and are excited, but I am not sure they know what to expect,” Mair said. “We are preparing a ten tune set list focused on mostly music associated with Kansas City and the Kansas City sound.”
Individuals interested in helping the KCKCC Jazz Band raise the approximately $60,000 in travel expenses can donate through Kansas City Jazz Alliance at www.kansascityjazz.org. Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of the donation will go toward helping students travelling to Cuba.
For more information on the KCKCC Jazz Band’s invitation to the 2014 Havana International Jazz Festival and on the group’s fundraising efforts, contact Jim Mair at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 913-288-7149.
Eric Stonestreet isn’t the only famous entertainer from Piper who makes people laugh. Dean Kelley, a Piper graduate, entertains millions of people as a clown for the Ringling Brothers circus.
Kelley will entertain the home crowd Sept. 10-14 as the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey “Built to Amaze” Circus comes to the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
People would sometimes ask Kelley about Eric Stonestreet, a comic actor from Piper now on “Modern Family” television series, who also did some clown acts.
Kelley, 34, said the two are both graduates of Piper High School, but in different eras.
Being a clown on the weekends in high school, Kelley also did theater and was in the band at Piper, he recalled in a recent interview. He was a drum major in the marching band, and played in the jazz band as well.
“My passion and my focus on my free time when I wasn’t doing school things was clowning,” he said.
“Once I got out of high school and went to college, I did professional theater in the Kansas City area,” Kelley said. He worked at the New Theater, Coterie Theater, and Theater for Young America, and that’s how he got a lot of performing experience, he added.
A graduate of Piper Elementary, Piper Middle School and Piper High School, Kelley attended KCKCC before joining the circus.
Most of his family lives in the Tonganoxie area now, and he was able to visit them just last month while traveling from one city to the next. He expects to see them again while he’s performing this week.
“I’ve traveled to 48 of the 50 states because of Ringling Brothers,” he said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity and wonderful career. I’m loving every minute of it.”
What does he like most about being a clown? Kelley said he likes the fact that he could do something that he loves to do, and not everyone can say that.
“One of the coolest things about being a clown, being in Ringling, is I get to perform for millions of people every year. To make people laugh all over the country, it’s amazing,” Kelley said.
While on the job, Kelley says he’s a magnification of himself, “very big and boisterous, making sure people want to have a good time.”
It is much harder to be a clown than people think, he acknowledges.
“I like to say it’s the hardest work you will ever love,” he said. “A lot of people think you can just throw on makeup, baggy clothes, and poof, you’re a clown. Makeup and costumes are part of it, but there is so much more to it.”
There are skills such as juggling, stilt walking, how to ride a unicycle. Routines performed by clowns are choreographed with clowns spending hours and hours on it before a routine even gets to the audience, he said.
This is Kelley’s ninth year with Ringling Brothers, and he’s been a clown for about 20 years now. He hasn’t missed attending a circus since he was 4 years old.
While in the Kansas City area, Kelley was a member of the International Clown Alley No. 92, and was vice president of the organization at one point. It is an organization that will help those who aspire to being a clown.
“A lot of people have dreams as kids, but I stuck with it,” Kelley said. “I literally ran away and joined the circus. It’s been an amazing career. If you set a goal for yourself, you can attain it. I’m living proof.”