WEST ALLIS, Wis. — Runners hit the pavement Saturday morning to take part in the first-ever Cream City 5K, an event organizers started to raise awareness about organ donation.

Organ transplant recipient Jesse Pagels founded the run and non-profit to promote organ donation.

He was eventually matched with a donor and received a double lung transplant. Now, he’s cherishing every moment with Hannah.

“I get to live and be with her and be her dad,” Pagels said.

He’s also talking about the importance of organ donation.

“It’s been a long road, lots of ups and downs, but ultimately it’s led to this,” Pagels said.

Hundreds took part in Pagels’ run, all hitting the pavement for donor recipients such as him and Kristen Marx.

She received heart transplant from a donor named Mindy, who passed away.

“Sometimes, I don’t even have words,” Marx said. “I’m just thankful every day I wake up and I’m alive.”

Others, including Suzanne Jensen, came out to honor loved ones who gave the gift of life, as her husband did.

“I can’t say it makes it easier, but it’s knowledge that he’s helping other people even after passing,” Jensen said.

It’s a precious gift that Pagels understands first-hand.

“Thankful that I’m here,” he said. “Thankful that I have this opportunity. Thankful for my donor, my donor’s family. This is a gift, and you have to appreciate life.”

Pagels said his event raised at least $6,000. Those proceeds will benefit the Blood Center of Wisconsin’s donor network and tissue bank.

April is Organ Donation Awareness Month. In Wisconsin, 2,500 people are waiting for an organ donation.

To learn more about organ donation, visit Donate Life Wisconsin’s website by clicking here.

For information on donating blood, visit the Blood Center of Wisconsin’s website by clicking here.