Emily Biondi died weeks before her 33rd birthday, in June 2016. Emily’s story really needs to be told from the start of her second chance at life.
At age 20 Emily was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of kidney failure and it was determined that a kidney transplant would be needed. Emily began dialysis immediately and transferred from Florida Southern College to UMBC to be close to home.
The clock started and Emily was placed on the transplant waiting list. Emily’s blood type and general physical condition allowed for the possibility of receiving a kidney from a living donor and family members stepped up to be tested. A maternal aunt, paternal uncle and Emily’s father turned out to be good matches. It was decided that Emily’s dad, Norm Biondi, would become the donor. Nine months after being on dialysis Emily along with Dad made the trip to University of Maryland Medical Center on December 19th, 2003. Emily’s recovery was swift. Christmas 2003 was very merry for Emily and her family.
Emily was determined to live her life and experience unique moments. Transplant athletics combined with organ donation advocacy and performing in musicals became her passions.
Emily’s transplant athletic career started with Team Maryland at the 2006 US Transplant Games held in Louisville, Kentucky. Both the US Games and World Games are modeled after the Olympics, showcasing successful outcomes from organ transplantation and continuing to advocate organ donation. Emily was not active in high school sports and hesitant. Emily’s first event in Louisville was the 5K where she earned a silver medal. She absolutely beamed from the medal stand and her track & field career was off to a fast start with four medals in Louisville including gold in the long jump.
Emily went on to participate in Pittsburgh 2008 (1 gold, 4 silver), 2010 Madison (2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze), 2012 Grand Rapids (1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze), 2014 Houston (1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze). Pittsburgh was Emily’s debut as a high-jumper. She won gold and established a US Games high jump age bracket record that stands to this day. Nobody ever beat Emily in the high jump in the US Games.
Emily attended two World Games as part of Team USA. 2007 Bangkok saw Emily win gold in the women’s 200 meter race, going from 5th position to 1st in the last 20 meters in an exciting finish beating Ireland and United Kingdom. Emily also took silver in the long jump. 2009 Gold Coast Australia was Emily’s last and most definitive World Games. The athletic abilities and international competitiveness of athletes rises to a high level at the World Games. Emily debuted in discus, taking silver. She took silver in the high jump finishing between two Netherlands competitors. The three girls looked like sisters on the medal stand. It turned out to be a repeat in the long jump with Emily taking bronze. Same sisters, different order.
Emily’s career medal count finished at 28, spanning 2006 to 2014. World Games: 1 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze. US Games: 6 gold, 11 silver and 6 bronze. Emily was especially proud of being a member of Team Maryland. She had the opportunity to sing at opening ceremonies in Louisville and Pittsburgh. Emily dedicated her solo “I’m Feeling Good” to her wonderful Team Maryland teammates.
The Maryland Theatre Review gave Emily her best review in the Memoriam column posted June 2016. The article reviewed some of Emily’s accomplishments in the roles she performed during her tenure. The review described Emily as a genuine “triple threat” meaning she sang, danced and acted with proficiency and flair. Emily also had comedic timing and would occasionally improvise during scenes. Does anyone remember Emily filing her sock monkey’s nails during Zombie Prom?
Emily started her acting troupe credentials at Timonium Dinner Theatre. It was here that Emily met other actors that would become lifelong friends. Indeed, it was a badge of honor and courage to perform and survive at Timonium Dinner Theatre! Dodging food, unruly children, wheel chairs and walkers made cast members tough and quick on their feet!
From the crucible of Timonium Dinner Theatre and after her kidney transplant Emily moved on to audition and receive roles with many Baltimore area productions. Emily focused mainly on musicals, enjoying the opportunity to sing, dance and act in shows like The Producers, Thoroughly Modern Millie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The forum, Chess, Fiddler on the Roof, Zombie Prom, Spamalot, Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1940’s Radio Hour, Bare, Little Shop of Horrors, Hello Dolly, Anything Goes, Curtains and many cabaret nights.
While it is easy to showcase Emily’s athletic and acting accomplishments, she would not want us to ever lose sight of her unwavering commitment and advocacy for organ donation. Emily promoted donation, lived with it and ultimately paid it forward by becoming a donor saving the life of a woman her age and providing sight to another. Indeed Emily’s last performance was worthy of a standing ovation and her last gold medal.