MILWAUKEE - Mary Nachreiner thought her world had ended a decade ago when her daughter Kelly died in a car crash just a month after her 16th birthday.
"Four weeks before that at the DMV she told me that she wanted to be an organ donor," Mary recalled.
"Why wouldn't I?" she remembered Kelly telling her.
It was a snap decision, one made with little forethought or contemplation. Kelly simply wanted to give the gift of life in the event that hers was taken away and, as fate would have it, she did.
On December 29, 1999, Kelly was riding in a friend's pickup truck when it crashed into a tree in Honey Creek. She suffered severe head injuries and died five days later.
With her death, though, one of her last wishes was fulfilled and her kidneys, pancreas, and liver were all successfully transplanted. She had given three different people the gift of life.
"I see the full circle of life in organ donation and transplantation," Mary said, a tear forming in her eye as she beamed with pride in her beloved daughter. "The positive impact that had on our family at the darkest time of our lives has just led me and my family on this mission."
That mission has led them to continually grow the circle of organ donation and helped to pass the "Kelly Nachreiner Bill," the country's first law mandating a half-hour organ donation awareness class in ever driver's education program.
"I'm the vehicle to just carry on Kelly's wish," Mary stressed. "Although I'm being recognized, I'm doing this on behalf of Kelly."
Her wish, her legacy, her gift of life has inspired so many that Wisconsin is now one of the nation's leaders in organ donation.
"I am so proud when people from other states say, 'What is it you do in Wisconsin to have such awesome donation rates as well as transplant outcomes?"
In spite of that, Mary insisted that there is still plenty of work left to do.
"We have 102,000 people on the transplantation waiting list in this country and 1,400 here in Wisconsin," she noted. "Unfortunately, the need far, far, far exceeds the number of organs that are available."
So Mary's world will continue to revolve around honoring Kelly's last wish, expanding the circle of organ donation, and challenging people across the country to to accept the challenge of giving life, even in death.
"I think it really comes down to if you or a loved one needed an organ to survive, would you accept it?"
Mary is a finalist in the Major League Baseball-People Magzine "All-Stars Among Us" Campgain. Click Here to vote for her to represent the Milwaukee community at the All-Star Game in St. Louis next month.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves