Kidney donation inspires Foothills woman - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Kidney donation inspires Foothills woman

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Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 8:00 am | Updated: 10:06 am, Tue Oct 19, 2010.

Helping people isn't a hobby for Cynthia Bowers. She has made it a full-time commitment.

But Bowers is not just volunteering her own time. Through her website, she is matching up other people who want to volunteer with organizations that need outside help. The Ahwatukee Foothills mother of two has started two separate organizations to meet this goal, one for individuals and the other for companies.

In recognition of her dedication, Bowers, who left a full-time job, was named in August as a candidate for the Beth McDonald Woman of the Year, an annual award from 99.9 KEZ in Phoenix.

The former electronics distributer doesn't look at helping others as an option; she looks at it as a necessity.

"I don't know what makes my personality type the way it is," she said. "But my first reaction is always how can I give back."

In late 2008, Bowers gave in a big way. She anonymously donated a kidney to a young dying boy at Phoenix Children's Hospital. This came after first discovering that a living person could donate one of their kidneys.

"When I discovered you could donate an organ, I knew I wanted to save the life of a child," she said.

But there was no streamlined process in place to get her to the operating table. There are programs for adults to give to other adults, but Bowers was set on giving her kidney to a child in need.

"The truth is, I don't know, we are who we are," she said. "When I heard that it was even possible, there wasn't any question in my mind that I wouldn't do it."

After extensive testing, Bowers received good news when the doctors at Phoenix Children's Hospital decided to run her tests against the list of kids on the transplant list. She ended up matching with an 11-year-old boy.

"After that I went through more intense procedures," Bowers said. "The doctors really had to dig and see if his body would attack my kidney. But it came back that our matching scores were equivalent as if we were siblings. It was then that I really started to push for it."

In December 2008, after more than a year of tests and waiting, Bowers went under the knife and her kidney was sent to the boy. She called the event "inspiring" and it left her with a desire to further her humanitarian efforts.

"It was a big thing in my life," she said. "Afterwards, it was kind of like, what do I do now? What do I do with this energy after this really inspiring event?"

Bowers started a search for volunteer opportunities. But it was more frustrating than she expected due to things like filling out applications, and going to training classes or interviews.

"I was trying to volunteer but it was hard to find openings," she said. "I don't want to take a training class; I just want to feed the homeless tonight. Why is it so hard to feed the homeless?"

This led to her creating the organization Phoenix Volunteers, which is a website that anyone can go on and see opportunities in the area.

"It's a grassroots organization that gives people the chance to give back to the community," Bowers said.

She also started Employee Reach, a non-profit organization that connects companies with volunteer opportunities for their employees. The companies can track the amount of hours their employees donate.

"I just think it is so fantastic that companies do this," Bowers said. "Some don't have resources right now to donate financially. This gives them another way to show their support for the community."

To find volunteer opportunities, visit the Phoenix Volunteers website, www.PhoenixVolunteers.org, or Employee Reach, www.EmployeeReach.com.

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