A Grandmother’s Legacy Shines on Through the Gift of Sight

A Grandmother’s Legacy Shines on Through the Gift of Sight

“It gives me pleasure and comfort that a piece of her is still on this earth,” said Garrett about his mother giving the gift of sight.”

Throughout her life, Janice touched those around her with her sweet and caring nature. “My mother, Janice, was a very sweet and kind woman. She was a single mother who raised me and also enjoyed spending time with her grandson, Alijah as well. My son misses his grandmother every day,” said Garrett. Janice retired from Hallmark in Kansas City after a 35-year career as a secretary. In her retirement, she enjoyed planting flowers, knitting, doing online jigsaw puzzles, traveling and listening to music. Her most treasured moments were those spent with her son and grandson.

With Janice’s caring and giving nature, her family’s decision to say yes to eye, organ and tissue donation upon her passing in November of 2015 was a natural one. “Since my mom was such a caring woman, she would’ve wanted it that way,” said Garrett.

Garrett recently received an anonymous letter through Saving Sight’s correspondence program thanking him for granting consent for his mother to give the gift of sight. Learning his mother’s recipient was also a mother and grandmother who enjoyed many of the same things brings Garrett peace. “This person can now see with my mother’s eyes,” said Garrett. “It gives me pleasure and comfort that a piece of her is still on this earth.”

Because the legacy his mother left in giving the gift of sight has helped comfort Garrett and his family, he encourages others to consider saying yes to eye, organ and tissue donation. “Please consider doing it because even though a loved one is gone, you are still giving another person hope to live a better life,” said Garrett.


You can join the millions of Americans like Janice who gave the gift of sight through eye donation by signing up for the donor registry at registerme.org. And be sure to share your decision with your family and friends. 

If you are a cornea transplant recipient or donor family and would like to share your experience like Garrett has, please send us a note through our Contact page. To learn more about writing your donor family or your loved one’s recipient, please read our Correspondence page or contact Saving Sight at 800-753-2265.

A Father Continues Helping Others Through the Gift of Sight

A Father Continues Helping Others Through the Gift of Sight

James enjoyed woodworking and watching NASCAR and NHRA drag races. “But above all, he was a man all about his family,” said his daughter Melissa. “He was the type of man that would give you the shirt off his back and do without so others didn’t have to.”

When James passed away suddenly at age 61, his family knew saying yes to eye donation was something he would have wanted. “The opportunity was presented to us just after my dad’s passing,” said Melissa. “Of course any decision in those moments is hard but, for us, it was a case of knowing my dad would have done it in a heartbeat because it was his way of helping someone.”

James’ legacy in helping others lives on through the gift of sight. Two individuals were able to have their sight restored through corneal transplants because he was an eye donor. For Melissa, it brings her comfort knowing her father was able to continue helping others even in death. “I feel like someone is seeing the world through my dad’s eyes and that gives me comfort to know he gave to someone that really needed his help in a way he probably never imagined,” said Melissa.

Melissa has had the opportunity to share about her father with his corneal transplant recipients through Saving Sight’s correspondence program. “I wanted my dad’s recipients to know that they were getting something from a man that had a heart of gold. My dad was an amazing man who worked hard and loved his family beyond belief.”

Because of her family’s experience, Melissa values the impact eye, organ and tissue donation can have not only for donor families, but for recipients as well. “You have the chance to give sight or save someone’s life,” said Melissa. “Nothing’s made me more proud than knowing that, even though he’s gone physically, he saved someone’s sight, and that’s something I will be proud of for the rest of my life!”

 Join the millions of Americans who have signed up for the donor registry by signing up online at registerme.org or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. And be sure to share your decision to be an eye, organ and tissue donor with your family and friends. 

Has eye donation touched your life as a donor family or recipient family with Saving Sight? Share your story with us! 


Donor Family Finds Comfort through Volunteerism to Honor the Legacy of their Son

Donor Family Finds Comfort through Volunteerism to Honor the Legacy of their Son

Because of donation, Vivian and Larry know that John’s legacy lives on in 37 other people. For Larry and Vivian, volunteering in support of the Donate Life message has brought great healing after their son John gave the gift of life as an eye and tissue donor.

John was a loving and protective big brother to his sister, Eleanor. Just 17 months apart, the siblings shared many friends and interests. They both loved sports and music. “John played the baritone saxophone on an award-winning jazz band in junior high and high school, earning a personal award at a jazz festival in high school,” said Vivian. He was also very involved in scouting, from Tiger Cubs to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. John also loved politics and was involved in many political organizations, especially when he went to college. “Just 6 weeks before John passed away, he started school to become a massage therapist, which had long been a dream of his,” said Vivian.

John died of an aortic dissecting aneurysm on October 11, 2004, just under four weeks before his 23rd birthday. “When the ER doctor came in to ‘that’ room to tell us the news that they were unable to revive John, our world collapsed around us,” said Vivian. “At some point, we thought of donation and told the nurse that we wanted John to be a donor. There was no thought, at this point, about what could or could not be donated. We simply wanted him to be a donor.”

Gift of Hope in Illinois called Larry and Vivian at the hospital to explain the donation process. “After this day, the next correspondence we received was from the Lion’s Eye Bank, now Saving Sight. We were told John’s corneas went to two people in Missouri who could now see this world through our son’s beautiful eyes,” said Vivian. “Thus began the feelings of comfort and healing that donation gives to the donor family. Over the next few years, we received the news that John’s other bones and tissues were given to 35 other recipients.”

Because of donation, Vivian and Larry know that John’s legacy lives on in 37 other people. “A man and a woman in Missouri gained sight because of his corneas. The fact that two people see this world through John’s eyes is remarkable,” said Vivian. “A Staff Sergeant in the Army has a rebuilt knee from our son. Beyond those, there are 34 people from New York to California and Florida to Wyoming, who carry a part of our son’s precious gift.”

Larry and Vivian have been very involved as Donate Life volunteers on both the national and local level. Volunteering with Donate Life

As a donor family, Larry and Vivian feel there is no way to overstate how meaningful John’s donation has been to their ability to cope with, and survive, in a world without him. “Add to this, the benefits of being advocates for donation through Saving Sight, IL Secretary of State Jesse White’s office, Gift of Hope and Eversight, and you have our recipe for survival,” said Larry. One of the questions Vivian asked the day he died was ‘How will people know John?’ “This is accomplished by being donor advocates for the above organizations and others. We have been blessed to share John throughout the state of Illinois and to places as far away as Savannah, GA, Denver, CO, Salt Lake City, UT and Pasadena, CA. The measures of comfort and healing we have been blessed with are incredible. It is our saving grace,” said Larry.

Larry and Vivian have been very involved as Donate Life volunteers on the national and local level. Here are a few of their volunteer experiences:

  • Presentations and booths (too numerous) for groups from small health care seminars, nursing students, hospital staff, and professional organizations associated with donation (funeral home directors, coroners, etc).
  • Savannah, GA – Presentation for the American Pyrotechnic Association’s National Conference, 2010
  • Denver, CO – Presentation to Allosource home office staff, 2007 and 2015
  • Denver, CO – Presentation to all 3 shifts at Statline, 2015
  • Salt Lake City, UT – Presentation to Allosource staff, 2007
  • Pasadena, CA – Donate Life Rose Parade Float, Vivian rode the float in 2013, and John is on a Floragraph in 2018
  • Pasadena, CA – We are both members of the DL Rose Parade Float committee, 2013 to present

“We have received such healing through the organizations that have nurtured us and allowed us to tell our story, through their employees who are always there for us, through the recipients and donor families that we have come to know and love around the country, and most importantly, for this important cause which also allows us to include both our daughter and granddaughter in our journey as we honor John.”

In October, Larry and Vivian were able to travel to California to decorate a floragraph that will be carried on the 2018 Donate Life Rose Parade Float with their daughter Eleanor and granddaughter Alina. “We left the majority of the floragraph decorating to Eleanor, who did a fantastic job,” said Vivian. They left part of the floragraph unfinished to bring home to Illinois to have friends and family help complete it at a special event.

This November, Larry and Vivian held a beautiful celebration at the United Community Bank in Sherman to finish decorating John’s floragraph. The intent of the event was not only to finish John’s floragraph, but to also promote donation said Larry. “We invited family to help with this, as well as longtime friends of ours, John’s and Eleanor’s. We, of course, had help from Saving Sight and the IL Secretary of State’s Office, both at the event and leading up to it.”

“On the day of the event, we were overwhelmed by the response,” said Larry. “We saw former teachers and classmates of John’s, including his former jazz band director. Family and friends visited from all over the state of Illinois and Iowa.”

The decision to participate in the Donate Life Float was an easy one for their family. “We are blessed that our business was in a position to sponsor John this year. We have been involved with the Donate Life Float for 6 years – first as honorees and the last 5 as volunteers and committee members,” said Larry.

“It is unbelievable that John’s floragraph will be placed on the Donate Life Float and will have the chance to been seen by hundreds of thousands on the parade, and millions on television,” said Vivian.


Look for the Donate Life Float during the 129th Rose Parade on January 1, 2018.


Lion’s Legacy Lives on Through Donation

Lion’s Legacy Lives on Through Donation

In McDonald, Kan., Duane Wilkens was long known as someone you could turn to for help in the community.

A grain elevator operator, father to three, and grandfather to seven, Duane devoted much of his free time to his family, yet still found time in his busy schedule to lend a hand to organizations in McDonald.

Duane was actively involved in the St. Joseph’s Church Policy Council, the Knights of Columbus, Cheyenne County Wild Life Board, the Cheylin School Board, and McDonald Area Development.

One group that was especially close to his heart was the McDonald Lions Club in which he was a member for 34 years. “The Lions’ motto is ‘we serve,’ and that is exactly what Duane liked to do…to serve and help others,” said Tish Loker, McDonald Lions Club member. “Whenever there was a need in the community and the club could be of service to that need, Duane made sure it got brought to the club’s attention and carried it through. He was always the one that had a huge hand in getting things rounded up and put together for the annual community events. He loved helping people and giving back to the community.”

Duane’s favorite time of year was the club’s Santa Claus day, an annual event which raised money for organizations in McDonald. Duane was always on hand with a big smile on his face, making sure all the families had a great time as they gathered to play games while their kids shared their wish lists with Santa.

When Duane passed away in February 2010, his family was asked if they wished to donate Duane’s corneas for transplant. Even during the most difficult time of their lives, Duane’s family didn’t think twice about helping their father’s caring spirit live on through two cornea recipients.

Duane’s children shared, “Dad always believed in helping others. So when it came time to decide on whether or not Dad’s gift of sight should be donated, there was no question. After all, this is what Dad always wanted. We know he would be so happy to hear that he was able to help others and pay it forward!”

You can join in honoring Lion Duane’s legacy by pledging to be an eye, organ and tissue donor to help those in need. Please visit www.donatelifekansas.com if you reside in Kansas or www.donatelife.net to find a registry in your state.