A Kansas City Chiefs fan who donated his kidney and the Eagles fan who received it are headed to the Super Bowl together. Billy Welsh and John Gladwell met more than 20 years ago when they served in the Marines together and remained friends afterwards, but hadn’t spoken for years. Then in 2019, Welsh wrote on Facebook that he needed a life saving kidney and his old friend volunteered to donate his.
Gladwell was moved to help his friend, in part, because Welsh was the father to a son not much older than Gladwell’s grandson. “I wasn’t going to let his son grow up without his dad being there for everything,” Gladwell says. The two Marines underwent a successful ten-hour transplant surgery at a Philadelphia hospital two years ago. “It meant the world to me. I was speechless,” Welsh says, “John Gladwell is my hero.
Eagles president Don Smolenski heard about Welsh and Gladwell’s story and reached out to Chiefs president Mark Donovan. The two team bosses agreed to send the veterans to this year’s Super Bowl. “The opportunity to bring these two guys together,” Smolenski says, “It’s very, very humbling and gratifying.” And while the men are forever connected through their service and their kidney, that’s where the goodwill ends. Both men are sure that their team will come out on top on Sunday. Welsh even joked about living with an organ from a fan of his rival team. “A Chiefs kidney? I don’t know how my body will react if the Chiefs win," he says. "The Eagles are going to win. Go Birds."