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.