30 Stories in 30 Days: A Young Superhero’s Gifts

April 21, 2013


Dylan “Deeder” Richardson was a typical seven-year-old boy who loved superheroes, especially Spider-Man. He also loved SpongeBob SquarePants, Star Wars, baseball, riding his bike and playing with friends. But in July 2007, Dylan was in a car accident.His injuries from the impact proved too much, and he was pronounced brain-dead 40 hours later.

“At the time, organ donation was the last thing on our minds,” said Lisa, Dylan’s mother.“I believe we wouldn’t have thought of it, but I’m grateful we were asked. What if the hospital staff was not brave enough to ask us? Dylan would have just died. Nothing more.”

Lisa and her husband, Dan, made the decision to donate because “it is the right thing to do,” Lisa said. “The day Dylan donated, he became a superhero because he saved the lives of three people. Not many seven-year-olds get to be a true superhero.”

The Richardson Family

The Richardson Family

Dylan’s heart saved a teenage girl in South Carolina. His kidneys saved a 65-year-old man in Kansas. And his liver saved a young man halfway around the world in the United Arab Emirates.

“The pain we feel from losing Dylan remains strong,” Lisa said. “But we’re glad Dylan was able to help others. Without the solace of knowing Dylan saved lives, who knows how much harder this would be?”

Dan Richardson continues to honor his son, Dylan, by building organ and tissue donation awareness

Dan Richardson continues to honor his son, Dylan, by building organ and tissue donation awareness

Through their experience, Lisa and Dan have become donation advocates with Gift of Hope. As Advocates for Hope, they volunteer when they can. “We wouldn’t want what happened to Dylan and our family to happen to anyone but, if something were to happen, we want to make sure we have done our part in making sure people know that organ and tissue donation is an opportunity to make something good come from a great and tragicloss,” Dan said.

When Dan tells people his son’s story, he always ends his story this way: “Please be sure you’re signed up do be an organ donor, and tell your family of your intentions. You may become someone’s superhero.”


30 Stories in 30 Days — Alicia’s Donation Story

April 1, 2013

April is National Donate Life Month and Gift of Hope is celebrating it by sharing stories from organ, eye and tissue donation advocates from across Illinois and northwest Indiana.

Each day throughout April, the Gift of Hope Blog will share the donation story of a family that was affected by donation. We hope that these stories inspire you to say “Yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation and share your decision with others.

whitworth 234Alicia and her family (including her father Paul)

We all have moments in life that are frozen in time, giving us the uncanny ability to remember every facet in extreme detail. The smells. The sounds. The layout of a particular room.

July 27, 2012, is that day for me. I can tell you what I was wearing, what song played on the radio before I got out of my car, the exact order I had just picked up at Subway and that the sun was shining. I can also tell you how I was unable to explain to my husband that he was going the wrong way, about the woman who dropped to her knees in prayer after seeing us running through the hospital and the about closed door the chaplain opened to explain what had happened.

My dad, Paul, was always telling jokes, wanting nothing more than to make people laugh and go out of his way to help others. He loved the St. Louis Cardinals, animals, old westerns, random documentaries and all things Irish, Navy and Notre Dame. As the oldest child, I was given the title “Daddy’s Girl” at a young age. He fixed my computer, sent money in college and taught me that if it moves and it isn’t supposed to, duct tape it. And if it doesn’t move and it’s supposed to, WD-40 it.

image0_0001Alicia and her parents on graduation day

Our thing was gardening. We planted a huge garden together every summer, not because our family needed that much, but because he would take the extras to friends, coworkers and food pantries, reminding us that people are hungry year-round, not just during the holidays. That silly, over-the-top Irishman was always giving.

On July 24, 2012, my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack. Three days later, my father suffered a massive heart attack while driving. A passerby pulled him out of his vehicle and performed CPR. He was stented at the hospital. Both men underwent hypothermic therapy, a process to cool the body during a 24-hour period to preserve brain function after cardiac arrest. On August 1, my father-in-law went home. That same day, my dad passed away at age 50 due to brain trauma.

Because of the circumstances surrounding his brain injury, there was a two-day span between when we knew my dad wouldn’t be coming back to us and when he could be taken off ventilator support and his organs could be donated. All I remember thinking is how cheated I felt and how I didn’t want to wait the two days — going home knowing I had to come back again and do it all over seemed unbearable. Even as a registered organ and tissue donor myself, I didn’t want him to donate his. I just wanted him to wake up. I wanted my dad back, my future kids to meet their grandpa.

Skip ahead eight months to a still-grieving, but more rational Alicia. I tell people I now fully understand why laws exist to ensure that people’s wishes are carried through — because grief is a powerful, irrational thing. My dad was proud to be a registered organ and tissue donor, and he would have wanted nothing more than the chance to save and improve lives through his selfless gifts. This is why I wish we had thoroughly educated ourselves about the organ donation process and talked about it more as a family: It impacts everyone involved.

Now, being an Advocate for Hope for Gift of Hope is a way for me to carry on my dad’s memory in a way that impacts others positively. I know that he saved the lives of two other dads by giving them kidneys. I know he gave people the chance to see their loved ones again through the gift of his corneas. I know he’s helped burn victims through skin grafts. On average, 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant, yet one donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 25 people. My dad’s gifts, and those who continue living full lives because of them, make it the tiniest bit easier for me to deal with the loss of my daddy. I find peace knowing how many others get a second chance with their loved ones because of my loved one.

Before losing my dad, I was a registered organ and tissue donor, but 18-year-old me had no idea what that really meant. I knew I’d help others; I knew it was the right thing to do. But I had considered only the gift that transplant recipients receive, never the situations facing donors and their families. But I’m here to say that it’s a gift to be the daughter of an organ donor as well. Through the selfless act of my dad and so many others, families receive a second chance at life.

Do you know someone who has been touched by donation? More than 117,000 Americans are on the national waiting list, with more than 5,000 in Illinois alone. What does tomorrow hold for you? We’re all just one phone call away from being on our knees. It could be you. It could be a loved one. It could be a stranger. But saying “yes” to being an organ and tissue donor can save all of those lives and more.

If you’re a registered organ and tissue donor, I encourage you to educate yourself and your family further on this selfless decision you’ve made. If you’re not, I urge you to register today at GiftofHope.org because Life Goes On.

– Alicia Whitworth

Illini Stories: Professor Brian Quick

August 23, 2012

U of I professor Brian Quick with his father.

Brian Quick is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Quick is an advocate for organ and tissue donation and has served as the principle investigator for several federal grants focused on increasing donor designation rates. But, he also has a very personal connection to organ and tissue donation.  In 1992, his father received a lifesaving kidney transplant. “Organ donation, for me, is very personal.” Quick continues, “Had my father not received a kidney transplant, he would never have seen me graduate from high school or college. He would have never met my wife or my two boys.”

Help Gift of Hope and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set the Guinness World Record for most organ donor registrations in a day.  You can stop by the Gift of Hope booth on the Quad on August 26th or you can register online TODAY at IlliniforHope.org.

-Josh Muller, PR/Marketing Coordinator with Gift of Hope

Donate Life Illinois shifts to Gift of Hope

June 6, 2012

Since 2006, Donate Life Illinois has provided social media users with organ and tissue donation news, expert insight and engaging digital content. In that time, we built a community of more than 18,000 Facebook fans, created a Twitter presence of nearly 1,450 followers and developed dozens of YouTube videos with over 250,000 views.

Today, the Donate Life Illinois social media channels transitioned to the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network brand. The newly branded sites for our respective social media channels are:

– Twitter: @GiftofHope
– Blog: GiftofHopeBlog.org
– Facebook: Facebook.com/DonateLifeIllinois (old address, new look!)
– YouTube: YouTube.com/DonateLifeIllinois (old address, new look!)

The look and names of these social media sites might be different, but the news, content and promotions will remain the same. Gift of Hope, in partnership with Donate Life Illinois, remains committed to creating a community of registered donors who are dedicated to building organ and tissue donation awareness across the country.

Keep an eye out for new features, promotions and news regarding Gift of Hope and our social media sites! To learn more about Gift of Hope, visit GiftofHope.org!

– Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope

Facebook and Donate Life America Partner to Save Lives

May 1, 2012

Today is a big day for advocates of organ and tissue donation! In case you haven’t heard – or noticed yet – Facebook has integrated one’s organ and tissue donation status into its timeline format. This means that millions of Americans will be exposed to the lifesaving nature of organ and tissue donation. It also links registered organ and tissue donors with each other to form a community of donation advocates who have decided to make a difference in the lives of others by taking just 30 seconds to register.

To make things even better, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday morning to promote the new timeline feature and encourage Americans to register as organ and tissue donors. ABC will follow up Zuckerberg’s interview by featuring donation stories on World News Tonight, Nightline and Live! with Kelly Ripa. ESPN (which is owned by ABC) also will feature stories that promote organ and tissue donation throughout the day.

In a press release from Donate Life America, President and CEO David Fleming states, “We can’t thank Facebook enough for the organization’s commitment to helping save lives by encouraging Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. We are also grateful to ABC and ESPN for their dedication to this cause and for sharing this opportunity with their viewers. Thousands of lives will be saved or healed as a result of this initiative. We encourage all Facebook users to take a moment and update their Facebook profiles, register to be donors and share their decisions with family and friends. It is a simple way to provide hope for those in need.”

The partnership signifies a giant step for the organ, eye and tissue donation community, bringing major exposure to the need for more registered donors and leading people to publicly identify themselves as donors. This, undoubtedly, will provide hope to the more than 114,000 men, women and children currently waiting for lifesaving transplants.

Be a part of the national community of registered organ and tissue donors by taking just 30 seconds to register at GiftofHope.org. Once you’ve registered, take a moment or two and share this decision with others by updating your Facebook profile!

How to add organ donor status to your Facebook Timeline by the Mayo Clinic:

Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

Donate Life Illinois Featured in “I Am Hope” Campaign

February 24, 2012

Next week, Donate Life Illinois will be featured in the national “I Am Hope” campaign. The “I Am Hope” initiative is part of Donate Life America’s “20 Million in 2012” campaign focused on registering 20 million Americans as organ and tissue donors in 2012.  Each state (plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico) has been assigned a week of the year to feature seven local inspiring stories, one for each day of the week.

“I Am Hope” Video from Donate Life America

From Sunday February 26 to Saturday March 3, Donate Life America will feature stories from Illinois. We will be sharing stories of donation experiences from Illinois with Donate Life America and its Donate Life partners throughout the country.

Check the Donate Life Illinois Facebook Fan Page to view our “I Am Hope” stories next week!

Show Some Love for Organ and Tissue Donation

February 14, 2012

Supporters of organ and tissue donation are some of the most passionate and energetic advocates around. This Valentine’s Day, let’s focus that passion and energy on “showing some love for organ and tissue donation.” How can we show our love for donation? It’s simple . . . just follow these steps:

  1. If you haven’t done so already, take 30 seconds to register your decision to save lives through organ/tissue donation at DonateLifeIllinois.org.
  2. Let others know that you’re a registered donor! Tweet and post about why you support organ/tissue donation. Not a social media fan? No problem! Tell ten co-workers, friends, or family members about why you support organ/tissue donation and why they should register at DonateLifeIllinois.org.
  3. Become a Donate Life Illinois volunteer. Learn more about the Donate Life Illinois Volunteer Program at DonateLifeIllinois.org!
  4. Advocate for organ/tissue donation in the community and in your workplace. Encourage your employer to participate in the Donate Life Illinois Workplace Partners Campaign. Or, if you’re still in school, organize a Campus Campaign that will encourage your fellow students to register as organ/tissue donors!

Thanks for all of your love! Let us know how you “showed your love for donation” by posting on the Donate Life Illinois Facebook Page or tweet at us @DonateLifeIL!

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