Ryan Gellings – Featured Donor
Ryan, 21, passed away January 13, 2017, as the result of a traffic accident. Ryan was born in July, 1995. After his birth, while driving home from the hospital, Ryan’s older brother and older sister made Dad pull over multiple times so they could each take a turn sitting next to Ryan. This exemplifies the love he gave and received throughout his life.
Even as a child he was competitive, smart, and enthusiastic about life. He loved construction equipment as a boy, and he and his dad spent time parked on the side of the road watching construction projects in progress. He graduated high school and was a four-year college student at the time of his death.
Ryan discovered a love of acting and singing while in junior high. His success was so great that he was asked to be a part of the high school play two years in a row when he was only 12 years old. The second year he had a starring role and he was so very proud! As a young man, he would effortlessly succeed at
everything he attempted. He picked up all manner of sports just to prove that he could. His favorite sports were Rugby and football, and Ryan was hand-selected for the Wisconsin State Select Rugby Team multiple times.
In college, Ryan was extremely proud to have competed in the national Rugby playoffs two years in a row. He played hard and was so competitive. When Ryan tore his ACL which took him out of play for a season, he dedicated himself to physical therapy and came back to play rugby again. Sadly, he tore his ACL once again. When he was no longer able to play Rugby, Ryan applied his boundless energy to new interests with the same enthusiasm. He pursued cartography, guitar, photography and art. He developed a passion for the outdoors and hiked peaks and trails in Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Montana – often at
3 a.m. so he could see the sunrise.
Everyone who knew Ryan speaks of his ability to make a friend wherever he went. His excitement captivated all those who he interacted with, and this is shown by the outpouring of support we have received. Ryan dreamed of traveling to Patagonia and Australia to explore his interests in conservation sciences. Ryan excelled in photography and left his family a gift of over 500 beautiful scenery photographs from his summer internship in Oregon.
Ryan makes his family so proud by sharing his energy with those who have received his organs. Along with these recipients, Ryan inspires all those who love him to wake up every morning and pursue their dreams without fear of failure.
We are proud of our son for choosing to be an organ donor and are comforted that he lives on in so many people. We very much would love to meet the recipients who share a part of our beautiful, adventurous son.
Laurie Kujawa Story
Laurie was a genuine, open, and passionately caring person. From the age of two she taught me things – like putting her hands on both sides of my face and making me look at her when she talked to me. She was asking for the same intense attention she gave to others.
Laurie was the kind of person who gives all and expects nothing in return. She loved being a grandmother and would drop anything to play with the grandchildren. She worked tirelessly in the background many days to make sure everyone had a good meal that accommodated everyone’s dietary needs. Our grandson David was shyer than his siblings and for years, each time she came to visit, Laurie made a game of chasing David until she got a kiss or hug. He ran and he giggled, but he loved being caught too. Sibling issues were often solved with humor – like the time she and her sister, Cheri found they could get more school clothes if they shared some basic pieces. Laurie was more classic style and Cheri ruffled or knotted scarves and other accessories. Laurie tried to get her sister to unkink the knotted clothing but it wasn’t working. One day she came home from school and ran up to her room, calling down that she’d be there in a few minutes. She was mysteriously cheerful when her sister came home and went up to her room. Cheri’s laughter could be heard through the house. Laurie had knotted everything knottable in her sister’s room – clothing, curtains, the works!
Her hobbies were also centered around bringing others pleasure. She enjoyed knitting and felting items for family, coworkers and friends. We miss her flute music that was part of family gatherings and especially a favorite song, It Is Well with My Soul, she would quote when life was challenging. She could handle challenges because the ‘big rocks’ of her life were settled, giving her a firm foundation. Her herb garden, her pride and joy, continues to inspire us. She made teas and ointments and gifted many different concoctions to anyone who had a need. When our grandson had cancer, she researched and prepared him gourmet meals. When David asked what of all those wonderful things he could eat, she exclaimed, “All of it, of course!”
She enjoyed her work as payment services manager at UW-Stevens Point and beyond being described by coworkers as a professional inspiration, a lasting legacy and friend, and one who would, with a big friendly grin, set others right whenever they needed guidance, she also encouraged several students there when they were hungry, ill or lonely. Laurie delighted in learning and continued her education. We enjoyed discussing some of her elective courses, especially Native American studies, part of her heritage.
Laurie accepted Christ at age 4 and confirmed her faith daily through love in action, as many will testify. She was very health conscious and was heard to say if she did not make it through menopause, she intended to preserve all her organs in a healthy fashion. She would not take one bite of anything that might compromise that goal. She was completely dedicated to whatever cause she took up, and did it with such joy. Laurie pursued life and lived it well – for others first.
She would be the first to tell me not to represent her as a saint, and I do not intend to convey that but was so proud of her drive and determination to pursue excellence in all areas of life – whether her job, education, community service, hobbies, gardening, cooking, serving, or nurturing family, friendships and other relationships. Her name Laurel, which means, crowning glory, and she created her pen name using the initials and Almot – C.G. Almot (C.G. which stood for Crowning Glory – at least most of the time!).
More than a daughter, she was also a best friend who would often call or email that she prayed for me or thought of me from a song she heard on the way to work. This excerpt, from a song she often quoted, Seize the Day, by Carolyn Arends, was what she lived.
Well, one thing I’ve noticed wherever I wander
Everyone’s got a dream he can follow or squander
You can do what you will with the days you are given
I’m trying to spend mine on the business of living.
Seize the day – seize whatever you can
Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
Seize the day – pray for grace from God’s hand
Then nothing will stand in your way, seize the day.
Those words bring a fond memory of her sister and I walking along with Laurie at the parade in Wild Rose promoting programs of the Lioness club she was proud to represent. Only months later her final gift was being an organ, eye and tissue donor benefiting 70+ lives, including vision to two Wisconsin recipients, and donating her eye glasses, both through Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin.
Because of her faith, I believe Laurie’s soul and spirit lives on, and I will see her again. Because of her dedication and determination, her body also continues to live on, bringing life to many. She continues to inspire me, and I hope this bit of her story inspires you too.
Emily Lyons Family Story
In February 2015, Emily Lyons was involved in a snow mobile accident. Emily passed away during her Freshman year at UW-Lacrosse; she was on a path to become an optometrist. After the accident, Emily’s family was approached by a donor liaison regarding organ donation. They were shocked to find out that not only was Emily registered to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor on her driver’s license, but she even went so far as to register online as well.
Emily was able to provide the gift of sight, by restoring vision for two residents in need of a corneal transplants right here in Wisconsin. Emily also donated her tissue and organs which saved the lives of six people and improved the quality of life for at least 50 others.
Now a mother on a mission, Dawn Lyons-Wood is doing her part to promote organ, tissue, and eye donation. Dawn has joined the local Beaver Dam Lions club and feels strongly about the power of donation “In a time of sadness, all we can do is focus on the positive. To me, Emily’s donation is our only positive. People who chose to donate do it out of kindness and love. Since Emily’s accident, my life has taken a completely different path. Due to this path, I have met some of the most amazing, loving, kind, and compassionate families.”
You can continue to support Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin and your local community by registering to become an eye, organ and tissue donor here.
Jamie Wilson Family Story
Jamie Wilson was a beautiful, warm and compassionate 21 year old. Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, she loved animals, hunting and bluegrass music. Jamie constantly battled feelings of deep sadness; Jamie lost her battle against depression on August 14, 2009. Although overwhelmed with shock over their loss, the family decided to donate Jamie’s tissue and eyes. Jamie’s mom Kelly said “donation made us feel we could keep her alive and someone else could benefit. It was comforting to know that it was an option.” In addition to donation, Jamie’s family has taken up the cause of suicide prevention and awareness. In memory of Jamie’s love for bluegrass music, friends and family put on a fundraising event that features bluegrass bands and other activities, including donation booths with information about the Wisconsin Donor Registry.
Money raised will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Evan Hauk Family Story
Evan Hauk played youth football, was an avid outdoorsman and especially enjoyed fishing, hunting, skiing and anything on the water. Evan skied the mountains, fished the rivers and lived life to the fullest for his 13 years. Evan was a wonderful big brother, had a heart of gold and beautiful sky-blue eyes.
Every parent’s worst nightmare came true – Evan was using a 110 volt electric prod to gather earthworms for a fishing trip with his father, and he was accidentally electrocuted. His sister found him lying on the ground, not breathing. Emergency medical personnel responded and transferred him to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. A nurse at the hospital asked his parents if they were interested in donating Evan’s corneas, their first thought was that, if from their tragedy, some good could come for someone else, it would be so like Evan’s nature and they chose to donate his corneas to the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin. Evan’s precious gift provided two recipients with a gift that will change their lives forever – fulfilling the Hauk family’s wish that Evan will never be forgotten.
For more information about how you can give the gift of sight, click here.
Sue Hoff Family Story
“My Mom, Sue Hoff, was many things to many people…a teacher, a counselor, a caretaker, a cheerleader, a prayer warrior; but most of all, a best friend. Her extraordinary humility and gentle soul were demonstrated, not with words, but by her actions. She showed an unconditional heartwarming love to all, including two complete strangers; as she passed on a gift that changed their lives forever, her corneas. On September 28, 2015, Mom made her journey home into the kingdom of God. Not a day goes by that she isn’t in the thoughts of many. I am grateful one of the last things I was able to tell her was I loved her and to hear back she loved me. I know this love is as beautiful, as powerful, and as strong, today, as it was all the years of our time together. It is a love that is all accepting, without conditions or limitations or prejudices, because that was the very essence of her character. I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. You may just have to listen differently. You may just have to talk differently. The truth is that the connection is never broken. It’s quite impossible to break the most powerful connection in the universe, love. Those we love don’t go away; they walk beside us. Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed. Their love leaves a permanent imprint in our memories and on our hearts. I have learned, from my mom, that the greatest legacy you can leave in life—is love, and my mom’s legacy is immeasurable.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Chris Persinger Family Story
Chris Persinger was a loving, always laughing 17 year old who wanted to meet and talk to everyone he saw. He played tennis, taught himself guitar, and enjoyed being out on the water, whether it was wakeboarding, skiing, or tubing.
On December 2nd, 2007, Chris was on his way home from the Wisconsin Dells where he spent a weekend with his best friends. Not long after leaving, he and his close two friends, Christian Weyer and Derek Hazenfield, hit a patch of black ice and all died instantly on impact. When Chris turned 16, he made the decision to become a donor, so his parents, Shelley and Todd Persinger, followed through with his wishes and he became a tissue and eye donor.
Dillon Mueller Family Story
Dillon was only 16 years old when he made the decision to become an organ donor. “We didn’t know he registered,” said his mother, Angel. Dillon provided the Gift of Sight to two recipients, along with being a tissue donor.
Angel stated, “…he was a stunt man in the making. He started riding a four wheeler at the ripe old age of three. Dillon raced dirt bikes from the time he was only six years old in motor-cross and “hare scrambles”. He was a dare devil with an awesome personality.”
Dillon was the youngest of three boys, raised on a sesquicentennial farm. He would have been the seventh generation working on the dairy farm. Dillon was an Eagle Scout and an officer of the FFA. Dillon was a beloved member of his community in Mischicot and as a tribute to him, his bikes, trophies and paintings were displayed at the high school where his wake was held with over 1,054 people in attendance.
The Mueller Family express a very special thank you to the entire staff of the Aurora Bay Care Medical Center for the love and special care extended to Dillon and his family before his death from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. The family advocates for organ, tissue and eye donation.