Sunday, January 20, 2008

Honoring Mandy

There's a certain sibling-like love that I'll always share with the kids I grew up with on my swim team. We all started swimming together as toddlers, practically, and although we're now all spread out across the country and around the world, they are as important to me today as they were in every other stage of my life. We may not be in touch with each other nearly enough, but most of us think of each other often, I know, and remember fondly the 14-plus years that we shared nearly every part of our lives -- in and out of the pool.

Amanda Kundrat -- who we always affectionately called Mandy -- was at the center, always, of the group, from the time she was old enough to swim from one end of the pool the other. Her older sister Carrie and I were the same age and the best of friends. Mandy was the perennial little sister. She had a gregarious giggle, infectious smile, wide-open spirit, and what seemed like natural ability to succeed at whatever she chose to do. She was wise, as well as a decorated, powerful, and strong athlete, not only in swimming, but tennis, too -- as dedicated to her training and health as she was to having a lot of fun. It was easy to be around Mandy, but harder to be around her and not find yourself laughing, or getting into some kind of mischief.

Five years ago -- January 21, 2003 -- Mandy died of complications while waiting for a heart transplant. She was 25 and was in the middle of earning her doctorate in communications at Penn State University. Her focus and passion were healthcare, with special emphasis on organ and blood donation. To honor her young, accomplished life, her friends have organized a blood drive in State College, PA each year since Mandy died.

This year the hope is that more people will donate blood in Mandy's honor, no matter where they live. Because I'm unable give blood myself, I'm hoping that I'm doing a small part to help the cause by asking anybody reading this to donate sometime this week if you can. I know that Carrie and her mom Joanne, as well as the rest of Mandy's friends and family would love to know that her hard work and her spirit lives on as more people stop to think about the importance of organ and blood donation this week.

For more details about the blood drive, a Web site has been created to spread the word -- if you donate this week, please post a note there to let the Kundrat family know. Also, if you're not in a position to give blood, monetary donations are being accepted at and checks can be sent to: Graduate Forum (attention Mary Haman), 234 Sparks Building, University Park, PA 16802. If you're in State College and wish to volunteer at the drive, which is on Friday, January 25, contact Hillary Jones at

Rest in peace, Mandy.



Coach said...

Knowledge and wisdom. We acquire knowledge throughout our lives but wisdom comes from an increased self awareness, and through being a part of the lives of those around us, by seeing the world through the eyes of as many different people as possible. Mandy lives on in the collective beliefs and the very human actions of people just like you. When you think of her and others you have lost, be incredibly grateful for the wisdom that their lives have imparted on you.

Deana said...

I did it I did it! They were having a blood drive today and I donated. (I wasn't sure how to do it in honor of your friend though....)
But my blood is at the San Diego Blood Bank and I got cookies! =)
Miss you!