Lifting Off for Life

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Connected by Organ Donation and Raley’s
Two Riders Ascend in Donate Life Hot Air Balloon at
The Great Reno Balloon Race

Travelling to Reno for his job at Raley’s* became impossible for fifty-year-old Gary Narberes, from 2009 through 2014, as kidney failure tethered him to a dialysis machine. Gary’s kidneys were functioning at just eight percent and he became so weak that he could barely ascend the stairs in his home. Outings with his two children, aged 11 and 14, were beyond his energy level.

But, today Gary is back to work fulltime as dad and provider, and just celebrated his 30th anniversary with Raley’s. To commemorate his newfound life, he will be one of two riders connected to donation and Raley’s, ascending in the Donate Life Hot Air Balloon at The Great Reno Balloon Race (Rancho San Rafael Park), Friday, September 11 at 5:45 a.m.

“At Raley’s, our team members are a part of the family. It is truly rewarding to see how our team members provide support to one another, even when faced with adversity,” said Chelsea Minor, Director of Public Relations & Public Affairs. “As a sponsor of the Reno Balloon Race, we are thrilled to partner with Sierra Donor Services to bring this special story to life.”

“It’s been a very interesting journey,” says Gary, who works as a Technical Trainer for Raley’s. “We all have things to learn in life. For me, I look at myself as independent, I try not to depend on others. This broke me of that. My donor gave me a second chance and my life back. Every time I drive by a dialysis clinic, I think, ‘I don’t have to go there because of my donor.’ That person is constantly on my mind.”

Lifting off with Gary in the Donate Life Balloon will be donor mother, Deana Santana. Her 17-year-old son, Scott, became an organ and tissue donor following a fatal car accident in May of 2011. Scott, a junior in high school, was a courtesy clerk at the original Raley’s store in Placerville. His mother says Scott was the kid who always had a smile on his face and a joke to share with customers. She describes him as goofy, fun and generous. His family honored his wishes as a registered organ and tissue donor. Because of that, Scott’s gifts saved five lives through life-saving organ transplants, improved another 73 through tissue donation, and restored sight to two others.

“On the day we received the worst news of our lives, five other families were getting the best news of their life,” says Deanna. “Scott would’ve loved a hot air balloon ride. He was into everything vintage – cars, motorcycles and clothes. He will be with us in our hearts as we lift off. And his donation continues to lift his recipients to new heights.”

In fact, Deanna recently met Scott’s heart and two kidney recipients who are all thriving, four years after their life-saving transplants.

“When my husband, daughter and I got to listen to Scott’s heart beating in his recipient’s chest, it was the first time since Scott died four years ago, that I felt like our family was all together again,” says Deanna. “I felt Scott there. Our family was intact for that suspended moment in time.”
Deanna changed the course of her life with her son’s donation. She now works for Sierra Donor Services,** the nonprofit organ and tissue recovery agency, as a public education coordinator. She says Scott’s legacy of generosity lives on in his recipients and to all who hear his story and are inspired to give life by signing up on the their state registry through the Department of Motor Vehicles or online at:
* Raley’s is a privately owned, family operated supermarket chain with headquarters in West Sacramento, CA. The company operates 124 stores in Northern California and Nevada under four banners: Raley’s Supermarkets, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source. Raley’s was founded in 1935 by Thomas P. Raley and is a major grocery chain best known for high quality products, fresh produce, fine meats and outstanding customer service. Raley’s strives to make its customers’ lives easier and better by delivering a personalized food shopping experience. For more information, visit

**Sierra Donor Services is a Dialysis Clinic Inc. Donor Services (DCIDS) subsidiary. SDS is a nonprofit agency dedicated to meeting the needs of the community by providing families the option of organ and tissue donation for transplantation and research. SDS serves Northern Nevada and Inland Northern California.