Turning tragedy into a Gift of Hope

Local News

“Almost 10 people received life-saving organs,” says Stephanie Dziedzic, manager of donor family services at Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network. “And more than 50 have received life-enhancing grafts of tissues and bone and skin.”

Two former Normal West High School students, Michael Collins and Olivia ‘Livi’ Sonetz, lost their lives years apart in car crashes. But through their decision to be an organ donor, their lives go on through others.

“The kid that was told that was too small, not big enough, not good enough, has proved everyone wrong,” says Paul Sonetz, Olivia ‘Livi’ Sonetz’s father. “And now, she’s bigger than life.”

And for some, their donations have given them new life.

“Through the gift of Michael’s corneas, a blind woman from New York can now see,” says Kelly Collins, Michael Collins’ mother.

Because of their life-changing donations, Gift of Hope teamed up to give their families and friends a different type of gift: a bench to go in front of Normal West High School.

“This gives them a place to still remember and to feel connected,” says Dziedzic.

“I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” says Collins. “There’s nothing else like it and to also have that in front of Normal West is just perfect.”

Not only will this bench act as a daily reminder to Michael and Livi’s courageous spirits, it will also emphasize the greater meaning behind an organ donor.

“Everything you do matters,” says Collins. “Every move you make, every action you take matters. Not just for you or your family, but for generations to come. And by choosing to be an organ donor, the effect of that we will never know.”

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