By Marybel Rodriguez

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Just in time for the holidays, a beloved Boys and Girls Club employee received the most precious gift, the gift of life. Chris Cleveland received a much-needed kidney transplant recently and is sharing his joy and his thanks with those around him.

Chris loves throwing a football, playing, and being there as a friend, mentor and father figure to the children at the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County. It is that joy and love for the kids that has given him the strength to survive.

More than four years ago, this 33-year-old health and P.E. coordinator was diagnosed with kidney failure.

“I was on the machine overnight for 10 hours a day, get off come to work for 8 hours, then go back home on the machine,” Chris explained.

However, he never let that get him down and he stayed positive and hopeful that he would be the recipient of a kidney donation.

On August 26, on the way to a Miami Dolphins game with a group of kids from the Boys and Girls Club he got the call.

“I was excited and scared at the same time,” he recalled.

Chris says he was scared because it was a major operation, but it was the only thing that would save his life. He had the surgery and it was a success.

A few months later and just in time for the holidays, Chris returned to his second home once again bringing so much joy so everyone around him.

“Chris is special, he’s special since we’ve known him at the Boys and Girls Club since he was 7 years old as a member,” said Matt Organ Executive V.P. of the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County.

All the kids he mentors feel the same about him.

“He’s a good person, another mentor, father figure, he’s a person I could always count on,” said member Tyrell Geddis.

They can now count on him to throw a football like never before and be by their side for many more years to come.

Chris, who counts his blessings every single day, has been given medical clearance as his kidney has been fully accepted and as long as he continues taking his medications, he will live a productive life.

Chris gives advice to those waiting for a donation, “If you’re waiting for the call, just be patient and it’s going to happen.”

Marybel Rodriguez