Taking on the Mighty Mac: A heartfelt tribute

July 29, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News
Timothy McDonnell finishing the race in 2016

Timothy McDonnell first conquered the Straits of Mackinac in September 2016, when he swam from the upper to the lower peninsula of Michigan in just under three hours.

He was one of only 30 swimmers to complete the distance that year and he did so as part of a fundraiser to benefit Habitat for Humanity. McDonnell raised more than $7,400, the second highest amount raised for the event.

On Aug. 11, 2019, he will again tackle the tide and the frigid temperatures to compete in the Mighty Mac Swim, a race that begins this year at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City and ends at Bridge View State Park in St. Ignace.

McDonnell will be one of 400 swimmers competing in the race and hopes to finish the four-mile swim — which could be closer to five miles with currents and waves factored in — in less than two and a half hours.

Labor of love

Although the event itself is a race and not a fundraiser this year, McDonnell is using the swim as an opportunity to create awareness about, and funds to support, adult cardiac transplant surgery in memory of a loved one who received care and support at Michigan Medicine.

McDonnell’s nephew, Chris Warnez, was the recipient of a heart transplant at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center in 2016. Despite years of medical issues that would make it difficult for most people to remain positive, Chris had a great outlook on life and enjoyed sharing his humor and goodwill with everyone he encountered.

McDonnell swims the race in memory of his nephew, Chris Warnez.

“Chris considered himself very fortunate to have received a donor heart and was a major proponent of organ donation as a result,” said McDonnell. “He was always very impressed with the care he received at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center. The transplant team and those who cared for Chris after his surgery helped him continue to live his life, even if it was only for a few more years.”

Although the transplant was successful and gave him more time, Chris passed away in October of last year.

The Beat Goes On

“I wanted to do something to honor his memory,” said McDonnell. “My goal when I embarked on this fundraiser was to establish a fund to assist adult heart transplant patients like my nephew.”

McDonnell worked with Michigan Medicine’s Office of Development to create a fund to commemorate Chris and help other patients in need of heart transplants. The Beat Goes On is that fund, designated to provide support for adult cardiac transplant patients.

McDonnell hopes to raise enough money swimming the Mighty Mac to establish a good base for the fund so it can grow in the future — and so that others will be inspired to direct future contributions to the cause. His goal is to raise at least $5,000 between now and the event on Aug. 11.

Folks interested in supporting McDonnell in his Mighty Mac endeavor and ensuring that The Beat Goes On in memory of Chris, and for other patients in need of heart transplants, can donate online by clicking here.

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