By VaNeesha Barlow, recipient daughter

My mom, Carletta, loved fiercely, was funny and caring. She was “all-American” as my sisters and I would call her; she loved to eat hamburgers, watch fireworks on the Fourth of July and reveled in each and every holiday. She was the backbone of our family.

At age 25, mom was diagnosed with kidney failure. For six years she went to dialysis three times a week for four hours at a time. She did this while raising myself and my two sisters. Life was tough, but she was tougher.

Finally, in 1999, when she was 31, the Gift of Life in the form of a kidney transplant was given to her. We got our mom back! She was so much happier after transplant, had more energy and could keep up with the three of us girls. Mom was so thankful to her anonymous donor. All we know is that the donor was a man – my grandma has been in touch with the family.

Mom was a fighter and survivor. Although she was not always able to physically participate in the Dash for Donation she registered every year and rallied her team to participate. She was the best team captain, cheering us on from the start to finish with a big smile and loving spirit – all to honor her donor and the life he gave her.

After 10 good years with her gift, the kidney began to fail. She was placed back on the national waiting list for her second chance at life. For the next eight years she hoped and prayed for another donor to be found. But one didn’t come.

In July 2016, at the age of 47, my mom passed away. Although the pain of losing her is still very real and fresh, our family has decided to again participate in the Dash as “Carletta’s Crusaders.” We will walk to honor mom, her donor and those who continue to wait for a life-saving transplant. Doing the Dash without mom will be hard and different, but we feel it’s necessary to honor the man who gave us so many great years with our mom.

I ask you to please consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor in honor of my mom. She was given 18 extra years with her girls – you could do the same for another family.