Diamond donor: Brother coaches linked by more than softball

Posted at 11:05 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 23:37:27-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Mark Rutherford teaches lessons for a living.

The head softball coach and choir director at Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake says he's motivated by those moments when something he gives, like knowledge or experience, is taken and turned into success.

"That feeling of pure joy for them does something inside me," Rutherford admitted. "It says I'm doing something right. That's super rewarding."

Also gratifying is the time Mark spends on the softball field with Hampton Roads Frontline, a non-profit organization founded by his family seven years ago. Mark shares coaching duties with his brother, Matt.

"We've pretty much been attached at the hip since we were younger," Matt revealed. "We shared a room, we went to college together."

"I have a lot of friends in this world, but there's my best friend right there," Mark said while pointing at his brother.

And his best friend needed help.

Matt, one year younger than his 36 year-old brother Mark, needed a transplant due to decreased kidney function as a result of the Type I Diabetes with which he was diagnosed at age 11.

"The wait list for the type of kidney I was looking for was going to be between five and six years," Matt explained.

But because of the relationship with the person he's closer to than anyone else in the world, Matt's transplant surgery was much closer, as well. In August, Mark donated a kidney to his brother.

"That was me prolonging my best friend's life," Mark said in an interview with News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler. "That's a no-brainer for me."

Exactly four weeks after surgery, Coach Mark and Coach Matt attended their first practice post-transplant. And the brothers hope their example can catch on.

"If our story gets one person to go forward and think about donating to someone in need - it was worth it," Mark said.

"I have three brothers, I have my mom and I have other people that were willing to help me out," Matt noted. "I don't know how anybody goes through the process like that by themselves. There can't be a bigger reward than this."

"Helping him did wonders for me," Mark added. "To watch him light up again and be able to return to the field."

Because that's what drives Mark, the coach and the teacher: others being better off after receiving something he gives.

Click here to learn more about navigating the journey of organ donation.