THE families of two little boys who will need a kidney transplant as they grow older have appealed for more people to opt in for organ donation cards as hundreds prepare to pound the pavements in aid of the Irish Kidney Association (IKA).
Thomas Howe, from Killarney, celebrated his second birthday last Sunday; while Tadhg McElroy, from Bray, will also turn two this weekend.
The two families bonded in hospital as the young boys fought for their lives, and this unique friendship has endured ever since.
Meanwhile, hundreds will take part in Run for a Life – an annual event to promote organ donation – in Ireland later today.
People of all ages have been encouraged to demonstrate their support of organ donation by taking part in the charity fundraiser, organised by the IKA.
A mother of three from Duleek, Co Meath, who has to undergo dialysis, is also among those taking part in the Run For a Life event along with her husband and three children.
Lisa D'Alton Bird was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease three years ago.
She now travels to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin in the middle of the night, three times a week, for her haemodialysis treatment.
"My family have been a great support throughout my illness and they are all hoping that I will receive a transplant soon," she said.
"This will be our third year taking part in the IKA's 'Run for a Life' and while I will be walking the route, some of my family hope to run it."
Registration, a participant medal and soup and a sandwich afterwards, will be €15 for adults and €10 per child and a family of two adults and up to four children can register for €35.
Teams of four adults, entering for the relay, can register for €55.
For registration and further details, visit runforalife.ie. For organ donor cards freetext DONOR to 50050 or LoCall 1890 543639.
Alternatively, smart phone users can download the Organ Donor E-card app.
At any one time in Ireland, more than 650 people are awaiting life-saving organ transplant and over 1,800 adults are receiving dialysis.
IKA chief executive Mary Murphy said: "Organ donation from the public is not the problem. The public are willing donors.
"The problem is that the system can only find less than 20 donors per million of population."
She added, "The system could be getting 35 donors per million by implementing far superior structures including organ donor co-ordinators in all our intensive care hospitals."