SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) - A young man has given the ultimate gift. As he was dying, his donation helped so many others live. Gift of Life Michigan promotes the benefits of organ donation, but a spaghetti dinner fundraiser became emotional when a nine-year-old kidney recipient showed up to say thanks.
Josh Tolan, a star quarterback for Brandon High was lost far too soon when he was killed. He was the victim of a car crash after someone ran into him one year ago.
"Unfortunately, the day of the accident … when they came and told us that he wasn't going to make it, that he was brain dead, it was almost instantaneously my wife and I said, 'Well, what about organ donation," said Dan Tolan.
So, Josh's parents told doctors to use his organs for someone else. Less than 24 hours later, that someone else was an eight-year-old boy from Birch Run, Jacob Roedell, who is now nine and has a new kidney. There was a lot of hugging and tears as Jacob and his family met Josh's family at Brandon High in Ortonville at the Gift of Life Michigan fundraiser. The organization coordinates transplants.
When Josh's mother saw Jacob smile with her son's kidney, she said, "It just helps to reiterate that we made the right decision. I mean, you can see a child just run through the room, and he had a smile on his face that lit up the room, too, I thought when he came in, and it reminded me of my son in a way because he had a smile for everything," said Ranelle Tolan.
"Just seeing how much it affects people and how it changed people, there's nothing better, I feel," said Matt Rife, Josh's brother.
On New Year's Day, Josh's life will be honored on the Gift of Life Michigan float in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom and Hank Zetterberg signed jerseys for this benefit raising awareness for organ transplant. The Wings signed a cap, and former Red Wing Red Berenson autographed one of his NHL sticks.
One of Berenson's current Michigan Wolverines is defense John Merrill, who was also Josh Tolan's cousin.
"I don't think you've ever met anyone that has said anything negative about Josh. I mean, just the best guy in the world. I miss him every day. It's just a tragedy," he said.
Gift of Life Michigan is working right now to encourage more people to become organ donors. Click here for more information on registering to become an organ donor.
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Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You