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ROCHESTER – Mark Scotch has put thousands of miles on his mountain bike to raise awareness for the need for kidney donations. He wasn't about to let a little rain dampen his morning ride to the Mayo Clinic.

Soaked and smiling, Scotch, of Plover, Wis., arrived in downtown Rochester on Monday as part of a three-week, 1,173-mile ride through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Scotch was joined by a half-dozen cyclists from Mayo who braved the rain to ride about 15 miles from Stewartville to the front steps of the Mayo Building.

Their goal was to bring attention to the urgent need for organ donation. There are now more than 100,000 people in the U.S. in need of an organ transplant, according to federal statistics. About 17 people die each day waiting for a transplant.

"As crazy as it might sound, we think it's a solvable problem," said Scotch, who rides for the organization he founded, the Organ Trail. "There are thousands, maybe millions, of people walking around right now who could be living donors and don't know that there is this need."

Scotch's journey to becoming a living donor began in 2020 when he met a man at a Louisiana bar who told him he was on a waitlist for a kidney transplant. Scotch wanted to help, so he signed up to become what's known as a voucher donor. Within a two-year period, Scotch matched with a patient in New York and successfully donated his kidney; meanwhile, the friend from Louisiana, Hugh Smith, was given priority for a transplant thanks to Scotch's voucher.

"Living donation isn't for everybody," said Scotch. "But we try to get across is: Go get evaluated. You don't know until you get evaluated. Then you can make a decision on whether you want to move forward."

Now a two-time living donor, Scotch is accompanied on his cycling journey by his wife, Lynn. In 2023, Lynn also donated her kidney to a patient in Illinois and gave her voucher to an infant in Maple Grove.

On Monday, the experiences of becoming living donors came full circle for the Scotches. Cooper Thompson, the Maple Grove boy who received Lynn's voucher and eventual transplant, was on hand to greet the couple as they rode in. Before receiving the kidney, Cooper, now 3, had been on dialysis since he was 8 months old.

While there have been some complications along the way, Cooper's mother, Katie, said he is making strides toward living a healthy life. That includes more time being outside, playing ball and interacting with his sister.

"It's surreal, just realizing they played a part in your child that they never met," said Katie Thompson. "It's just an amazing feeling. We are nothing but grateful for everything they are doing to raise awareness around organ donation."