One of Barb’s Favorite Songs Includes the Words: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody he is travelling wrong, Then my living will not be in vain.”
“My mom was ALWAYS happy! She was everyone’s best friend and she never met a stranger,” says Tamika of her mom, Barb. “She had the most beautiful smile and the most distinctive laugh ever!”
Tamika adds that Barb was an expert shopper and bargain-hunter who loved finding deals on clothes and shoes, but especially loved purchasing home decor. “She took pride in her decorating skills, and loved searching magazines for the latest in interior design. She loved cooking and enjoyed entertaining friends at her home, and was also an avid reader. She would read a book a day! Above all else, she loved spending time with her family – especially her grandchildren. She was definitely their biggest fan.”
When Barb passed away, she was able to give the gift of sight to others as an eye donor. “My mom made the choice to become an organ donor through the DMV and encouraged me to do the same,” says Tamika. “That’s the type of person she was…always a giver. She impacted so many people – her funeral services were attended by over 400 people!”
Tamika chose to write to her mother’s recipient through Saving Sight’s Correspondence Program because she felt it was important to make that connection with her recipient. “I wanted them to know more about their donor, and I wanted to learn more about them as well. It’s mind-blowing to know that there’s a part of her that lives on in someone else!”
“I’d like to believe that someone’s life has been enhanced because of my mom’s donation. I hope that they know that by receiving any part of her, they are connected to a brilliant, strong, loving, faith-filled person.”
“#LiveLikeBarb was something that I came up with right after my mom passed away,” says Tamika. “So many people spoke about how they aspired to be like her or how they admired the type of person she was. That hashtag is a small reminder that we should all strive to live the way she did. Even while living with Congestive Heart Fail-ure, she never allowed her health to slow her down. She always had joy, was always quick to forgive, she never complained, and she lived a life of gratitude. Who wouldn’t want to Live Like Barb? The buttons are just a tangible reminder of that – I usually keep several on hand at all times because I’m always running into a classmate of hers, a for-mer co-worker…even her favorite cashier at JCPenney asked for one!”
“In honor of my mom’s birthday, I got Live Like Barb tattooed on my shoulder…I’m sure she was somewhere rolling her eyes about that!”
“I made a promise that my mom would be famous – that her name and legacy would live forever. I don’t ever want her story to be solely about me and my journey without her…my goal is to have her life story impact others in a way that helps them to live their lives in a more meaningful way.”
Joining the Donor Registry
For those considering joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry, Tamika says: “The most important thing that we can do while we’re here on earth is to be a blessing to someone. That’s how you leave a legacy, by ensuring that someone else has a second chance at life through the generosity of organ donation. It’s a chance to be a hero.” You can join the donor registry at your local DMV or at www.registerme.org.
In a time of tragedy, Maddie’s legacy lives on as an eye and tissue donor.
Jim Allmon shares how his stepdaughter’s legacy lives on through eye and tissue donation.
My story or should I say “Our Story” is one that I refuse to let define my family. It is unique and, unfortunately, tragically ironic. On Friday May 5, 2017 there was a prom crash reenactment at the New Berlin High School. I have done several dozen of these reenactments at local high schools in Sangamon County throughout my 16 year career at the Coroner’s Office. I am the Chief Deputy Coroner for the County and it is one of my responsibilities to speak to a lot of the high school kids prior to them attending their prom. We speak about the dangers of distractive driving, drinking and driving and making good decisions the night of their prom. Maddie was a junior at New Berlin High School and witnessed our crash reenactment. Once the crash reenactment is over, all of the students go into the school gym and listen to me speak for a short time about my job. They heard how hard it is for me to talk to the parents of kids lost in car wrecks and how most of them could have been avoided. I remember Maddie raising her hand and asking me a question while we were in the gym and I remember calling Maddie’s name and telling the whole school she was my daughter and I answered her silly question. I left that day thinking that the program went well and that we maybe got our message through to the kids.
On May 6, 2017 Maddie went to her junior prom and then to her after prom at the high school gym. Maddie was a straight A student and a cheerleader. She was popular with the kids and really knew how to light up a room. On May 7, 2017 I was on call and I remember being woke up to the familiar sound of my work cell phone ringing. It was about 8am and it was a beautiful Sunday morning. I answered the phone and I heard the familiar voice of my friend and dispatcher telling me that there had been motor vehicle crash not far from my house. I got up like I always do and got ready to go to the call. It must have only been a few minutes that it took me to get ready. I told my wife that I had a call and I had to go. I told her it was a car wreck and as always, she told me to be careful and she would see me in a little while. I got dressed and headed out the door. As I was walking to my car I heard a scream come from inside my house. I remember running back up my driveway toward the house and my wife came running towards me. She tossed the phone to me and said “Jimmy, NO”. It was the Illinois State Police and they had went to the residence where Maddie’s car was registered (her dad’s house) and had told Courtney (my wife) that Maddie had been in a bad wreck. I remember taking the phone and asking the State Trooper if it was our Maddie. They said that it was her and she had appeared to have fallen asleep, crossed the center line and hit a semi-truck head on. Maddie had left after-prom when it was over and dropped one of her friends off. Maddie did everything right that night. She was not drinking, she was not on any drugs and she was not on her phone. Maddie had been up for about 30 hours straight and simply fell asleep.
There has not been one single day that goes by since that day that I have not thought about that morning at least several times. Shortly after hearing about the wreck, my wife and I were sitting in our bedroom with our girls trying to figure out how to absorb this unimaginable thing. As I sat there I thought, how can I make this better… I thought that there is no way I can fix this. Then I thought that maybe there is a way, that there could be something good come from this horrific thing. I started making calls and reached out to Saving Sight and Gift of Hope. I remember hoping that there was still some time for Maddie to be able to donate. The process went very smoothly – everyone I talked to seemed very passionate about their job and cognizant of what we were going through. I remember telling my wife that I was extremely happy to be able to make a decision for Maddie that she would have wanted me to make. Shortly after Maddie’s funeral we received a letter from Saving Sight that told us two different people now have the gift of sight because of Maddie. One of the recipients was a 5 year old girl. That letter has become part of Maddie’s story. Maddie’s gift will also touch approximately 67 lives as a tissue donor as well.
Continuing Maddie’s Legacy
We decided to give back to our wonderful community after everyone did so much for us. Our community carried us through that year of firsts and really helped us get where we are today. We had a Golf Outing to raise money for scholarships to be given to a New Berlin High School Senior once a year for the next 5 years. Maddie would have been a senior this year and was on track to graduate with honors. We were able to raise enough money to give away $9,000 in scholarships this year and give away $1,000 a year for the next 5 years to a New Berlin Senior Cheerleader. Thanks to several sponsors (including Saving Sight) we were able to have a great outing that raised a lot of money for these kids.
Left photo: Courtney Allmon; Erica Roberts, Donation Liaison at Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network and Deputy Coroner at Sangamon County Coroner’s Office; Jim Allmon. Right photo: Erica Roberts and Jim Allmon with Maddie’s sisters, Gabby Allmon, Abby Finch, and Isabelle Allmon.
November is Eye Donation Month! Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) uses the month as an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of registering to be a donor, about cornea donation and transplantation, and to acknowledge the work of their partner eye banks. As a member eye bank, Saving Sight will be taking part in celebrating Eye Donation Month and the theme of The Power of You. The campaign demonstrates the “power” that individuals have in building hope, restoring sight and changing lives, including healthcare professionals and partners, researchers, eye bank staff, corneal surgeons, and recipients and donor families.
We will be sharing several cornea recipient and donor family stories in November. Be sure to follow Saving Sight on Facebook and on our website during November for #EyeDonationMonth. Thank you for helping us change lives by saving sight!
Vicki’s loving and caring legacy lives on as an eye donor.
Vicki was a loving and caring person who always wished to help others. She loved the outdoors, decorating and design, and reading in her Bible. Most of all, she loved her family and was a proud mother of 3 children, grandmother to 13 and great-grandmother to 9.
For the past ten years, Vicki had been in ill health and, while under hospice care, she made her wishes known she would like to donate her corneas. “As Vicki’s sister, I lost my sight in my right eye after cataract surgery so we hope that Vicki’s gift will help someone else see,” says Cricket, whose given name is Barbara but her little sister Vicki always lovingly called her Cricket. Vicki and Cricket had discussed organ donation, but knew with her health she’d likely be an eye and tissue donor.
“We discussed Saving Sight with hospice and were pleased that she could give sight to others,” says Cricket. “The Saving Sight technician who recovered her corneas was very caring and gentle and so very understanding.”
Just knowing Vicki’s donation will give someone else sight is meaningful to Cricket and the rest of their family. They know her legacy will live on and they will always remember her big, beautiful brown eyes that all of her children and grandchildren inherited.
“Vicki was a minister’s wife and always cared for others,” says Cricket. “She, at times, had little to give but always gave to others what she could so this is her last gift that the Lord let her share.”
You can learn more about joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry at registerme.org.
“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 ourContact 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.
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 atregisterme.orgor 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.