OMAHA, Neb., April 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — April is National Donate Life Month and April 18-24 is Pediatric Organ Donation Week. The Lane Thomas Foundation (LTF) is working to raise critical awareness in communities across the country about this life-saving cause, asking everyone to #KeepLoveAlive by becoming an advocate for organ donation—and pediatric organ donation—by talking to family and friends about making a commitment.
Joining LTF as an ambassador for this year’s #KeepLoveAlive campaign is actor and philanthropist Torrey DeVitto, who plays emergency pediatric physician Natalie Manning on the hit NBC television series Chicago Med. Says DeVitto, “We portray stories every week on the show that are happening in real life in communities across the country every day. I want to use my platform to shine a light on the critical, life-saving importance of pediatric organ donation.”
For many types of transplantation, young children often need to receive an organ from a donor of similar age/size, a requirement that often means a lack of availability. Of more than 100,000 people currently on the national transplant waiting list, more than 1,900 are children, over one-third of them are under 6 years old. Approximately 100 children die each year waiting for a transplant, but they don’t have to—just one organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of as many as 75 people.*
Following the tragic, 2016 passing of their precious, two-year-old son, Lane Thomas Graves, Matthew and Melissa Graves formed non-profit LTF later that year to honor Lane’s legacy, his love of life and the joy and light he brought to others. The foundation is dedicated to raising awareness about pediatric organ donation—of which there is a critical shortage—to support children who need life-saving transplants and their families.
As part of the 2021 awareness campaign, the foundation is launching a #KeepLoveAlive PSA and social media campaign and sharing their own story … as well as the stories of parents across the country who have made the decision to help save the life of another child … and the stories of the children whose lives they helped save.
Watch the #KeepLoveAlive PSA:
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“No parent is prepared to lose a child ever,” says Matt. “The loss is unbearable. Organ donation may seem like a hard choice to make … but people who donate their child’s organs are heroes. Our vision is that no child dies waiting for a transplant. Having conversations as a family about donating organs before a tragic event happens can help save children’s lives. If we can influence one person to say, ‘Yes,’ it’s worth it.” Adds Melissa, “We feel that there’s no better way to honor your child than to give life to another child.”
Lauressa Gillock, North Platte, Nebraska, made the decision to donate the organs of her 3-year-old daughter Olivia, who passed away from brain cancer, gifting Olivia’s intestines to Angelo, her liver to Lucas, her kidneys to Scott, her corneas to a fellow Nebraskan and her heart to KeVon. She later met KeVon, now 8 years old, who received his transplant at 22 months old and shares, “Why would we not give back? This little boy is running and playing because of my little girl. I felt Olivia’s heart beating in his chest. I’m so grateful for that.”
Recalls KeVon’s mom, VonKeshia Long, McComb, Mississippi, “I was praying for my child to live, but I knew so was that other parent. It’s a big step and I’m truly thankful for Lauressa’s choice. Her daughter is alive through my son … That’s Keeping Love Alive.”
“Losing a child is the worst pain anyone can go through,” continues Lauressa, now a pediatric organ donation advocate and an ambassador for LTF. “But I have so many things to be positive about. People are alive because of my daughter. Being part of a decision that has saved several people’s lives gives me a reason to live. I wake up every day grateful for having the honor of being her mother and continuing to be part of her legacy. I have no greater mission than to talk about organ donation.”
Erika & Brian Arp, Friend, Nebraska, also ambassadors for LTF, tragically lost their son Beckett in an auto accident when he was just 6 years old and made the decision to help others. Says an emotional Erika about their choice, “We lost our child and it’s been horrible, but seeing families who have a new life because of organ donation and how it’s changed their lives, that brings joy. It brings it full circle for us. I’d do anything to have Beckett back, but it’s helped us move forward.”
“We were both registered organ donors, but we just checked the box,” Erika continues. “We never had that conversation. But there was no hesitation. When you are about to lose hope, God sends you a miracle. And that night, the miracle was that Beckett got to be an organ donor and make an impact on the world.”
“We are here to spread the word,” she says. “It’s changed not only our lives, but the lives of our friends and people in our community. It’s a family legacy. I want our other children to carry it forward. This is what we can do versus just grieving. It’s more than I could ever have imagined.”
MORE FACTS ABOUT ORGAN DONATION*:
- More than 1,000 children die in fatal accidents or by illness each year.
- The organs that children tend to need most vary by age:
- Under the age of 1, most children are waiting for a liver or a heart.
- Most children ages 1-10 are waiting for a kidney or liver, followed by heart.
- Most children ages 11-17 are waiting for a kidney, followed by liver.
About The Lane Thomas Foundation:
In addition to raising national awareness, LTF provides emergency financial assistance for non-medical expenses to families from across the country receiving their child’s treatment for life-saving transplant in Omaha, Neb. (where the foundation is headquartered), through partnerships with Nebraska Medicine and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.
To date, LTF has assisted 93 families, many of whom are required to be away from home for months, frequently forcing at least one parent to take a leave of absence from work. Grants are provided for such things as travel, food, mortgage/rent, utilities and/or auto payments, allowing parents to focus on their child’s health and recovery while keeping their family together.
How You Can Help!
Learn More About Pediatric Organ Donation:
Make a Donation:
Join the Conversation …
Designate the Lane Thomas Foundation as Your Charity on SmileAmazon:
*Sources: Donate Life America, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network
Vicki Greenleaf — 323.660.5800
Michelle Orsi — 310.418.6430
SOURCE Lane Thomas Foundation