BRISTOL, ENGLAND (WIVB)- A young woman from Western New York is about to embark on a 500 mile trek in Europe.
Chelsea Alventosa is tackling a route known as The Way of Saint James to raise awareness about a cause close to her heart. She told News 4 she had a wake-up call a few years ago and hopes her five week journey will inspire other Western New Yorkers to live a healthy life and become organ donors.
Alventosa grew up in a tight knit family in Amherst.
Less than two weeks after her 11th birthday, her perfectly healthy, 39 year old mom Linda, died.
"She was my mom, she was a great person, I loved her," said Alventosa. "She was funny, had a beautiful smile, just like a contagious laugh, helpful to everyone."
Their family decided to donate her organs. It wasn't until a few years ago, however, through a letter from UNYTS that she found out the true impact that had.
"Her kidney and her pancreas were donated to a man in Wisconsin, and a woman in Buffalo got her other kidney, and another woman got her liver, someone in Indianapolis got her cornea from one of her eyes and the other cornea was sent to Germany," explained Alventosa. "Her veins were donated to people who needed bypass surgery and her other tissues were donated and I was just like it's incredible one person can help so many people."
She told us it changed her life.
"It was like she wasn't really gone," she said. "Just knowing that because my mom was healthy when she died she was able to help 10 other families, was just so impactful for me."
Alventosa started living a healthier life. She lost 50 pounds and moved to Bristol, England to get her master's degree in nutrition, physical activity and health.
To celebrate finishing her degree she's taking on a 500 mile walk from France to Spain.
It's called the Camino de Santiago, an old pilgrimage route, to the place some believe St. James is buried.
She's raising awareness for organ donation and hopes to get a $10 donation for UNYTS for each mile.
"We never know what's going to happen tomorrow," said Alventosa. "Just to have a healthy body that could help other people, is something that people don't think of because it sounds kind of morbid but it's also really important."
She told News 4 she's also celebrating her own health journey and that her mom will be with her every step of the way.
"I think she would be pretty proud," she said.
Click here to follow her journey and make a donation to UNYTS.
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