Aspen Summit for Life Bounce Back Award winners honored |

Aspen Summit for Life Bounce Back Award winners honored

Erica Robbie | The Aspen Times
Donerik Black, left, and Christopher Nalley are the 2016 winners of the Bounce Back Award, which recognizes transplant recipients who assume positive, productive lives post-transplant.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

After the Summit for Life Wine and Dine dinner Friday night (Dec. 2), Donerik Black and Christopher Nalley will serve as judges in a new “Chopped”-inspired cook-off.

The event, Party for Life, will also feature drink specials from Spring 44 Vodka and live music by DJ Dylan.

As part of the culinary battle, chefs Barclay Dodge and Bryan Nelson will not know which ingredients they are to use until they read it in today’s paper.

The three ingredients are Colorado honey, duck confit and something from the gourd family.

The chef’s dishes will be awarded based on taste, presentation and creativity.

Party for Life will kick off at the Aspen Cooking School at 9 p.m.

The term “no bad days” not only illustrates life today for transplant recipients Donerik Black and Christopher Nalley, it also is a mindset that both men take to heart.

“We don’t have bad days because we know what a bad day looks like,” said Black, who underwent a heart-transplant surgery in 2015. “No Wi-Fi on the plane? We don’t get aggravated by that.”

“Cold coffee and bad traffic” won’t do it either, added Nalley, who has endured two lung-transplant procedures in the past 10 years.

As winners of the 2016 Bounce Back Award, the Chris Klug Foundation is hosting Black and Nalley in Aspen for the 11th annual Summit for Life events this weekend.

The Chris Klug Foundation, in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Astellas, presents the award to transplant recipients who assume a positive and productive quality of life post-transplant.

The award winners were selected among more than 60 nominees across 17 states, according to a statement from the Chris Klug Foundation.

Black and Nalley met Thursday for the first time, but their tangible companionship after a few hours of introduction could have fooled anyone.

“Most transplant people are very understanding, warm-hearted individuals,” Nalley said. “Because they’ve probably been through a lot of tragedy.”

“No doubt,” Black said as he shook his head.

Black’s history with organ donation began before his heart transplant last February.

Back in 2006, Black gave his father one of his kidneys, and ultimately, the ability to live.

Less than 10 years later, Black found himself in another hospital bed, this time at the mercy of an organ donor.

The day before his 45th birthday, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic delivered the best gift Black could wish for — news that they had found him a heart.

Following a successful heart transplant, Black said he immediately felt a newfound sense of purpose in life.

“For me, every day I wake up, I try to honor (my donor’s) legacy by doing something great,” Black said. “He was my biggest motivation to bounce back. Because every day I want to do something that honors the legacy of Eric.”

Eric is the name of the man who donated his heart to Black.

For Black, honoring Eric and donors elsewhere means educating people on organ donation, raising thousands of dollars for organ research and living life to the fullest.

Along with pursuing his love of BMX racing, Black is actively involved with Donate Life Ohio and the American Heart Association and shares his story “to as many people that will listen.”

Like Black, Nalley said he also felt both inspired and compelled to make the most of his life post-transplants, not only for himself but also for his donors, without whom he may not have had the opportunity.

“There were a lot of firsts that he didn’t get to do,” Nalley said of his 16-year-old organ donor, Ryan.

The Virginia native vowed he would experience those firsts for Ryan, and like Black, help to spread awareness about organ donation.

Nalley volunteers at LifeNet Health, an organ procurement organization, as well as the United Network for Organ Sharing.

In 2007, he joined the board at Donate Life Virginia, where he helped form a transplant games in his home of Richmond.

“Donerik and Christopher exemplify what we look for in a Bounce Back Award winner, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to present the award to them,” Chris Klug Foundation Executive Director Lauren Pierce said in a statement. The foundation will honor Black and Nalley during an awards ceremony at the top of Aspen Mountain on Saturday.


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