In summary, I intend to continue running and promoting organ and tissue donation awareness as long as my health permits. I suppose it is the very least I can do to continue to honor the memory of my late daughter and to highlight the joy that Len Geiger has brought into our lives and how our decision to donate Korinne’s organs, tissues, and bone was the best possible choice we could have made during the darkest days of our lives.
My name is Kevin Shroyer and I am a former resident of York, PA. I grew up in the Lincoln Park area of the city and graduated from William Penn Senior High School in 1978. I went on to York College of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1982 with a BS degree in Criminal Justice. That degree led to me being hired by the Lynchburg, Virginia Police Department in August 1982 and I have lived in the Lynchburg area ever since.
I have been an athlete my entire life, going back to my earliest days of playing football, basketball and baseball on York Boys Club teams. Upon entering high school, I played varsity baseball for three years at York High. I also had the privilege of playing American Legion baseball under the tutelage of my good friend and former mayor of York, Charles Robertson, Jr. I continued playing team sports well into my forties, including a stint as the player/manager of the Lynchburg Police Department’s softball team during which time several league titles were garnered. Running had never been an integral part of my fitness routine except as it involved running up and down the basketball court or rounding the bases or shagging a deep fly ball in the outfield. All that changed in the mid-90s when I decided I wanted to try running the historic Virginia 10 Miler road race held annually in Lynchburg. The course, given Lynchburg’s notorious hills, hence its nickname as “The Hill City”, had the reputation as being one of the hardest ten mile races in the country. This reputation was responsible for bringing in many of the most talented and fastest runners in the world to try to conquer Lynchburg’s course. The likes of Bill Rodgers, Rod Dixon, Frank Shorter, and Grete Waitz have all graced the streets of Lynchburg with their presence. I set a goal for myself of finishing in less than 80 minutes. Many of my friends snickered at that, given that this was my first race ever and I had not even run a shorter 5K race in preparation for the grueling Virginia 10 Miler. I finished in 78 minutes and remembered thinking afterwards that it didn’t seem all that bad. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and jubilation of surpassing my goal time and feeling like I could have given more if needed. On that day, a runner was born! Since that initial race, I have run close to 200 races, ranging from the mile to the marathon. I am closing in on my 20th marathon (26.2 miles) in the fall when I run the Marine Corps Marathon. The ten mile to half marathon (13.1 miles) remains my favorite distances to race and seems to be the distances I am best suited for from a strength and speed standpoint.
On December 17, 1987, I was blessed with the birth of my first child, a daughter we named Korinne Ashley Shroyer. Korinne grew to be a very well-rounded young lady, participating in soccer and dancing ballet while also playing saxophone in the school band and keeping up honor roll grades. About the time Korinne reached adolescence, during her 8th grade school year, she began experiencing unusual mood swings and fluctuating feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair along with the incredible highs of joy and happiness that go along with being a well-respected, admired and loved teenager. One day, Korinne came to me and my wife, Kristie (nee Gotwalt, also of York) complaining about the way she had been feeling and asking us for help. Between us, we decided upon Korinne seeing a mental health therapist. At this point, we did not know if Korinne’s feelings were related to hormonal issues or the normal angst that some teens feel. The therapist soon recommended that Korinne be given the anti-depressant Paxil in order to relieve some of the anxiety she had been experiencing. At the time, neither my wife nor I knew anything about Paxil, but assumed it must be safe for our 14 year old daughter if a mental health professional recommended it. That was the WORST possible decision that we could have made on behalf of Korinne, as we later were to discover that one of the most widely-known but least publicized side affects of Paxil is the propensity for suicidal actions and thoughts in the first two weeks of treatment, especially in children. Ten days after first ingesting Paxil, Korinne took her own life. Korinne lingered for six days in a coma before finally succumbing to her head injury. Korinne died on the morning of May 26, 2002. During the time that Korinne’s life hung in the balance, Kristie and I spoke about what to do with Korinne’s organs should she pass away, as was the likelihood. Since we had both already decided to be organ and tissue donors ourselves, we thought it was the most appropriate decision we could make on behalf of Korinne. That was the BEST possible decision we could have made at that moment in time! Little did we know, that there was a man, almost the same age as I, hanging perilously close to that delicate balance between life and death, named Len Geiger of Gainesville, Georgia. Len had been suffering for years with the genetic lung disease known as Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and his lung capacity was steadily decreasing. By the time Len’s condition and ailment was properly diagnosed, after being misdiagnosed many times, Len’s only option for survival was a lung transplant. On May 26, 2002, when Len received both of Korinne’s lungs in a transplant operation performed at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, VA, Len’s own lungs were barely functioning at a level conducive to living a satisfying or even a normal life. Len was on oxygen and his lung functioning had dropped into the teens.
Soon after receiving his new set of lungs, Len went about the business of living life to the fullest again. He had been an avid athlete, participating in road races and triathlons before experiencing the debilitating effects of the Alpha-1 disease. In the spring of 2003, almost one year from the date of his transplant, Len decided to reach out to the Shroyer family. Len mailed a letter and a photograph of himself to us, thanking us for the decision we made as parents, and expressing his profound grief at our loss. All Len known at that time was that his donor was our daughter, a teenage girl from Lynchburg, Virginia. As a result of that initial letter, a correspondence developed between the Shroyers and Len through more letters, telephone conversations, and finally a face-to-face meeting that occurred in October 2003 in Charlottesville, VA. From that initial meeting, it was obvious that Len and I had much in common besides our ages. We were both competitive athletes in very good health; had much the same outlook and view of life; had a spiritual connection; and realized that we had been brought together, both through dire circumstances, for a reason. At that meeting, it was suggested that we participate in an 8K race together the next month in Richmond, VA in support of organ donation. We readily agreed and our lives have never been the same since. We were astonished at the media response to our participation in this race, not to mention the outpouring of emotion from members of the public that came to know us upon hearing our story as to what brought us together and why we were there running that race. We decided that we could not allow ourselves to slip away into obscurity when we saw the opportunity for much greater things to be accomplished! We knew that by participating in events together we could educate the public on both organ donation and Alpha-1 with the ultimate goal of saving people’s lives! From that initial 8K, we proceeded to compete in numerous other races over the next few years, ranging from 5K to a marathon, with a triathlon thrown in for good measure. We discovered that the more we competed, the more our notoriety grew, and the more people we were able to connect with. Soon we found ourselves featured in the pages of Sports Illustrated, Runner’s World, Blue Ridge Outdoors, in addition to hundreds of newspapers around the country. We were featured on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, as well as CNN Live, ABC’s World News Tonight, MSNBC, and many local television news stations in the cities we competed in. Our story has also been included in two books. Individually and collectively, Geiger and I are frequent speakers at functions, training seminars, and conferences dealing with either organ donation or Alpha-1.
After several years of traveling around and promoting organ donation awareness and education elsewhere, I decided in 2008 to become a Race Director and organized my own race in Lynchburg for the purpose of raising funds for organ donation agencies in Virginia and to continue educating people regarding the constant need for life-saving organs. I selected a course I often ran on my own in historic downtown Lynchburg by the James River and Blackwater Creek. The course also includes two significant hill climbs up to a Lynchburg landmark, the 1815 mansion, now a museum, named Point of Honor. Hence, I decided to name my race the Point of Honor 5K. Since its inception, the Point of Honor 5K has been given the distinction of being included in the annual Lynchburg Road Runners Club Race Series. On April 6, the 6th Annual Point of Honor 5K was once again held in downtown Lynchburg with over 200 registered participants. For the first time in the history of the race, Len Geiger was able to be in attendance and participated by walking the course with Kristie & Kolby Shroyer, Korinne’s younger sister. To date, the Point of Honor 5K has generated well over $30,000 in proceeds that have been donated to LifeNet Health/Donate Life.
With Geiger being on his second set of replacement hips as the result of steroidal damage brought about by the medication ingested for his Alpha-1, Geiger is under doctor’s orders to cease running, lest he risk further damage to his hips. I, on the other hand, am still running strong and just completed the Blue Ridge Half Marathon in Roanoke, Virginia. My next marathon will be the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, October 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. Between now and then, I have many other races of lesser distances on my running schedule. In May, I will be traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a representative of the Lynchburg Road Runners Club, to attend the Road Runners Club of America’s National Convention. While there, I will also run in the RRCA’s National Championship 10K race.