By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Gift of Life Donor Dash takes place Sunday morning outside of the Philadelphia Art Museum. One particular family is running for the first time to honor their Rose gone too soon.
For 19 years, Melika Rose Roberts was known by her wide smile. Even though she was born with Vater Syndrome and had just one working kidney, her medical condition never stopped her rose from blooming.
“Whatever Melika wanted to do she found a way to make it happen,” says Debra Roberts, Melika’s mother.
She says her daughter wore a urostomy bag, endured dozens of surgeries, but received a donor kidney when she 11-years-old. The kidney functioned for seven years.
“She had about 12 different medications she had to take but that didn’t affect her quality of life.”
Melika used those seven years to graduate high school, go to college and help to raise thousands for CHOP. But last August, two years after her donor kidney failed, her body was so weary…the Rose passed away. Melika was just 19 years old.
“Melika, honestly, hands down was one of the strongest people I ever met,” says Kareema Murray, a cousin who started Team Kidney Kick Sati! to honor Melika in the Donor Dash.
Murray says the whole family pitched in designing a t-shirt, creating a YouTube video and raising money to raise awareness about the gift of organ donation.
“To know that we had her for seven years because of someone else being a donor is tremendous,” says Murray.
But Murray notes the family is simply carrying the torch that Melika lit three years ago.
She says Melika’s Kidney Kicks fundraiser was a $17 kick boxing class that raised money to benefit CHOP’s nephrology department. Murray says they plan to continue the effort in 2014.
“We want people to know that there’s no end to Melika,” says Murray.
Mom Roberts says Melika always led by example on the issue of organ donation.
“When she turned 18, the first thing she did was check organ donor,” she says, noting she hopes others will too.
“People are dying every day and then they’re taking those organs to heaven with them,” says Roberts, “as Gift of Life says, Lord knows we need them here on earth.”