A gift of life leads to a happy ending for Art in the Park vendor

Art in the Park vendors Theo and Jen Rallis beam after sharing their kidney transplant story at the 2019 festival media launch at Devonshire Mall, May 22, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

A chance encounter with a regular customer led to a vendor at Windsor’s Art in the Park getting a new kidney.

Theo Rallis and his wife Jen, co-owners of Rallis Olive Oil, have been selling their product at Art in the Park for several years. Now Theo can continue doing so thanks to a customer providing him with the gift of life.

At Wednesday morning’s media launch for the 2019 Art in the Park, held in the north parking lot of Devonshire Mall, the Rallis’ described how they had received devastating news just days before the 2017 event. Theo, who had been dealing with kidney trouble for years, was about to lose his one remaining good kidney. They were told Theo would be in total renal failure within one year. But Jen said Sharon Uttaro, a regular customer, stopped by their booth at Art in the Park to see how things were going.

“I said ‘oh, I’m good’ and she said ‘no, you’re not, you’re lying to me,’ and so I told her what was going on,” said Jen. “Right there on the spot, she made the very, very generous decision to go get tested.”

Miraculously, the test results showed that Uttaro was not only a match but an identical match, which has odds of one in 100,000. Theo and Uttaro underwent kidney transplant surgery in April 2018.

“It’s been just over one year and last year I wasn’t able to do Art in the Park because I just had the surgery, but this year I am. I’m back,” said Theo. “It’s going to be pretty awesome, I think.”

Rallis Olive Oil is encouraging its customers and Art in the Park visitors to consider becoming organ donors by registering at BeADonor.ca.

The 41st edition of Art in the Park will take place on June 1 and 2 at Willistead Manor in Olde Walkerville.