The ELF Award is presented to André Lassooij for inspiring many through his athletic achievements following his double-lung transplant.
In honour of the new Healthy Lungs for Life theme, 'take the active option', which highlights the importance of physical activity for lung health, this year's ELF Award will be presented to André Lassooij.
André was in his early thirties when he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Prior to the onset of his illness, André had had a keen interest in playing different sports, including table tennis, squash, cycling and running. However, as his symptoms worsened, he could not stay physically active. The illness took its toll and André frequently found himself in hospital, needing supplementary oxygen to help him breathe. Eventually, he had to stop working.
When he was offered "the gift of life" a double-lung transplant from an unknown donor in 1996, André's life changed dramatically. Within 4 months, he was able to return to work – and even cycle there and back. In 1997, he took part in his first World Transplant Games and has competed in every subsequent year.
André has won medals for the 100m sprint, the 200m sprint, the high jump and the long jump. In 2009, he beat world records for the 100m and 200m sprint, and won gold medals in the high jump and long jump. In 2008, in a race against men who had never had a transplant, André became the Dutch national champion of the 200m sprint.
André campaigns tirelessly to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. In 2014, he led a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro with people who had received organ transplants. He has also held a number of prestigious organisational roles: he is currently the Vice President of the European Heart and Lung Transplant Federation and served as Chairman of Sport en Transplantatie, for several years. Alongside competing, André has also acted as Dutch Team Manager for the World Transplant Games.
Dan Smyth, Chair of the European Lung Foundation, said: "André's positive attitude to life, his sporting achievements and his tireless efforts to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation are truly inspirational. The 'take the active option' message of this year's Healthy Lungs for Life campaign aims to draw attention to the benefits of physical activity among people living with a lung condition, at a level that is right for each individual, whether that be at a highly athletic level like André, or by making smaller day-to-day changes that encourage people to move more."
André Lassooij will be presented with the ELF Award during the Opening Ceremony, on Saturday 26 September, 2015 from 17:45 in the Auditorium