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Cream City 5K and the power of organ donation


"Now some of this is just a warm-up..." Jesse Pagels says, lowering his trumpet after playing a beautiful string of notes.

He lets out a laugh. "I know when I listen to this finished piece I'm just going to be critiquing my trumpet playing."

Listening to Jesse play, it's clear the professional trumpet player has perfected the instrument.

"I started playing the trumpet when I was in fifth grade ... when I was little I liked it because it was loud. I liked playing the loudest instrument."

I would have died about two years ago if I didn't receive these lungs.

But about 13 years ago, after fighting leukemia, Jesse had to put down the trumpet. He had developed pulmonary fibrosis in his lungs and was slowly loosing his lung function.

"I had to stop playing the trumpet for those seven years. I just didn't have enough air."

But thanks to an organ donation, 13 years later Jesse now has a new set of lungs and is back to playing the instrument he loves.

"I would have died about two years ago if I didn't receive these lungs. I'll be forever grateful."

And now, with the help of friends, family and generous sponsors, Jesse is giving back. He's rallying for the cause he believes in through the first Cream City 5K, Milwaukee's first run/walk to support organ, tissue and eye donation.

With a 5K as well as a Kid's Fun Run, the Cream City 5K will take place April 23 in Greenfield Park in West Allis. Proceeds will be donated to the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, home of the Wisconsin Donor Network.

"One organ donor can save lives," he says. "Even in Wisconsin there are 2,600 people waiting for an organ transplant. Nationally there's 124,000 about... thats like three Miller Parks of people waiting."

To register for the Cream City 5K or to learn more about Jesse's story, you can visit or email

Want to become an organ donor in Wisconsin? You can add yourself to the Wisconsin Donor Registry.

Listen to the full interview with Jesse Pagels of the Cream City 5K by clicking the player above.