CINCINNATI, Ohio — April 11 is National Living Donor Day, honoring donors and recipients from living organ donation.

The Cincinnati Reds are participating in the team's second annual Living Donor Awareness Game to showcase the ultimate double play of living organ donation.

What You Need To Know

  • Curtis Binkley needed a liver transplant at just 3 years old 

  • After waiting eight months, his parents got the call that a living donor was matched with Curtis 

  • Shannon Black decided to go through the process after her cousin, who needed a liver, passed away

  • The Reds are honoring Curtis and Shannon at the second annual Living Donor Awareness Game on April 11 

Three-year-old Curtis Binkley is a budding Reds fan with a backward hat and Jonathan India bobblehead to prove it.

Looking at Curtis’s smiling face, you would never know all he’s been through in his young life. He was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, which severely damaged his liver.

Curtis is a happy and healthy 3-year-old. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“You never once stop to think that that could happen to you," his mom Gabby Torres said. "But when it does happen to you, it’s… a kick in the gut.”

His parents waited an agonizing eight months as their little boy’s health continued to deteriorate.

But then they got the call.

“Excitement, overwhelmed with joy," they both said.

But it was still difficult as parents to know their child would undergo such a massive surgery at a young age.

“Just the thought that you know maybe the outcome wasn’t going to be good and those thoughts just come into your head," Torres said.

Curtis right after his liver transplant. (Photo Courtesy of the Living Liver Foundation)

But the question remained: who was the person who saved their little boy?

“Oh, we wanted to know about her,” Torres said.

“We kept asking during the surgery, how’s the donor doing?” Curtis' dad Ryan Binkley said.

On the other end of the surgical room was Shannon Black. She started the process of giving a liver to her cousin. After finding out she was a better fit to donate to a child and her cousin passed, she knew she wanted to still go through with the donation.

Shannon said it only took her about a month to feel fully back to herself after the transplant. (Photo Courtesy of the Living Liver Foundation)

“That just solidified my decision," Black said. "And that wasn’t just in honor of him, it was in memory of him and all the great things that he had done in his life, I wanted to like honor that and continue the gift.”

And four months after the surgery, Curtis and his family met the person who saved his life.

“I didn’t want anything major in return or anything," Black said. "So I didn’t want them to feel like they had to like keep praises upon me. So that was like making me nervous. I was just like I just want them, I just want to get to know them.”

“Now we’ve made a lifelong friend and everything like that," Binkley said. "And if you ask me, she’s more than a friend. She’s family.”

Shannon and Curtis will be a part of each other's lives forever. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

Now, the family and Black are helping share their story to encourage living donor donation along with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Reds and the Living Liver Foundation as well as the misconceptions about living organ donation.

“When you think of living donation, a lot of people think of kidneys because people can live with only one kidney," Michelle Baxter a nurse at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and a liver transplant coordinator said. "I don’t think a lot of people realize that your liver actually does regrow.”

David Galbenski, a liver recipient himself, started the Living Liver Foundation to give patients and their families more resources throughout the process.

Galbenski said there's a special bond between liver recipients. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“To interact with Curtis at three years old and know that he’s got a future ahead of him because someone generously gave of themselves," Galbenski said. "Doesn’t get any better than that.”

And thanks to Galbenski’s efforts, the Binkley Family and Black will be recognized at the second annual Living Donor Awareness Game with the Cincinnati Reds, a way to show off the ultimate double play of living organ donation: saving the life of a patient and freeing up another organ of the deceased organ list to save another life.

While the game will be ceremonious of Curtis’ journey, it’s just the start of a lifelong relationship.

Curtis and Black will be honored at the Reds game on April 11. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“She is a hero," Binkley said. "She’s our hero and Curtis’ hero for doing this because my worst fear was losing Curtis to his cancer, to his liver disease. It was my wife’s worst fear.”

And Black hopes their story inspires just one person to join the living donor list.

“I hope people can kind of see Curtis and how great he is and just realize they have the opportunity to do that for another kid or another person," Black said.

Curtis and Shannon will be honored during the Reds/Brewers game Thursday afternoon. The two will be part of a ceremonial first pitch to honor National Living Donor Day. The game starts at 1:10 at the Great American Ballpark.