Donor Tributes 2021-07-08T14:52:18+00:00

Ednan Ortiz

My name is Victoria, and my sister’s name is Alex. Our dad, the donor, is Ednan. Our dad was always giving all of himself in everything he did in life, so even though I did not know about his donation decision until after his passing, it was not surprising at all. I believe the main reason our dad elected to be a donor is because we have family members who have experienced vision loss. My sister has a scratch on her cornea that has caused significant loss where she has only about 30% vision remaining. We also have a cousin who lost all eyesight by the time she turned 5-years old, but thankfully she is thriving and has a family of her own (and even flew an airplane once!).

Our dad was the most amazing, selfless, hilarious, fun-loving, hard-working, and dedicated person I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He has so much love in his heart for all living things and showed that to everyone he met. He would give you the shirt on his back, shoes on his feet, and pants, too (as long as it was not cold). He persevered through so many tribulations in his life and never gave up. He dedicated his life to serving others.

If you asked what our dad did for work, it is like what did not he do. He was a D.J., security guard, plumber, woodworker, apartment building manager/maintenance, a truck driver for airing and cooling supplies, and his last occupation was driving a bus for a senior care center to pick up/drop off the seniors and take them on field trips. But, he was also so much more. He was a musician, a father, son, brother, cousin, and friend. A comedian and a cook! Our dad was such a great cook that I would ask him all the time how to cook this or that. His favorite cooking medium was B.B.Q. He was the best at that.

Our dad also loved taking pictures. He has so many cameras and memory cards packed with pictures of anything and everything. He loved getting those candid shots of people, laughing, and enjoying life. He also loved taking pictures of things that would remind you of the beauty of this world. That, despite all the pain and ugliness the world can throw at you, there is equal, if not more beauty, if you are open to it.

Our dad loved watching what I consider, older shows like M.A.S.H., Gilligan’s Island, and Happy Days. He also really loved action movies, one of his favorites was A Knight’s Tale. When I was younger, I was obsessed with The Lion King, that I made my dad watch it with me probably a hundred times, or so he told me. He also loved sports and watching the Green Bay Packers.

During my dad’s last day, I remember he looked out of the window a lot. Whenever I asked him if he was ok, he said, “yeah, I’m just taking a look.” I think, even in the last hours, he was still trying to take in the beauty that was being offered to him. And that is why my sister and I are so very proud of our dad and thankful that he chose to give that gift of seeing the world’s beauty to other people.

My sister and I wish you all the blessings and beauty that this world has to offer.

~Victoria, Alex & Ednan

Annette Wick

Annette was born in September of 1992. She was the second of our 4 children. Soon after birth, it became obvious that we were given the gift of a special needs child. She had a genetic syndrome that was never named, maybe it is just a one in a trillion thing or at the very least, does not have enough identifying characteristics to give it a name. She was able to grow into adulthood. She functioned at about the level of a 3-year old child. She had a funny sense of humor and would get a dirty smirk on her face when she knew that she was funny. Annette loved animals, cats and dogs being her favorite to watch. She loved to go places, always ready to go to the next adventure. She could spot the golden arches far ahead of anyone else. The next time you see a McDonalds, stop by, and order a strawberry shake or some fries and enjoy them for her!

As the years went by, Annette started to have behavioral issues and as such, we were unable to care for her anymore at home. She also was plagued with seizures. At times she would have many a day and sometimes could go a few weeks without one. The last year it was not fun to be Annette. The seizures became more frequent and she lived 1½ hours from us so we could not visit her as often as we would have liked.

On September 25, we received a call that Annette had 15 seizures and was in the hospital. She ended up having aspiration pneumonia. That night she was put on a ventilator. The doctors and nurses did everything they could. We had hope for a few days that Annette was making positive strides. It was not meant to be. On October 10, it was realized that one of her lungs had collapsed. The doctors did their best to re-inflate it. Nothing worked. On the morning of October 11, her doctor came over, with tears in his eyes and said, “I’ve tried everything. I’m so sorry”. At 4 pm that day support was removed. Annette looked so beautiful. She was at peace. There was nothing hooked up to her. She was sedated to keep her pain to a minimum. She held on through the night. At 5:55 am on October 12, Annette’s heart stopped beating. Both Daddy and Mama were with her. Daddy was reading to her; Mama was holding her hand.

When we realized that our daughter’s days on this earth were coming to an end, one of our questions to the doctors, nurses and social workers was if any of our daughter’s organs, eyes or tissue could be donated. We had hoped that her death would enable others to live a better life. We are so happy that others have been given the chance to regain their vision, or at least make it better. Even through our sadness, we are so happy that through her cornea recipients, our daughter lives on. It is a huge comfort to us.

Paul Francar

Paul was, above all, kind. He tended to others’ needs first. He had compassion and made it his life’s work to care for those who had less or those who society may have seen as less, the chronic mentally ill. He focused on the good and helped those who had little. His sincere ability to listen and truly empathize was rare and drew people to him. He grew up with a loving mother and two doting sisters. His father’s passing away when he was 14 impacted him deeply. He first became a ‘kid magnet’ as a young, fun-loving uncle to his sisters’ kids. His impact on children and legacy of caring continued through neighbor kids, his daughter Jessica and her friends, and great-nieces and nephews. Paul loved nature, hiking, biking, travel, waterfalls, seafood and chocolate, his dogs, and his tropical fish. His love and complete knowledge of playing and watching sports, especially football, was unrivaled, especially the Green Bay Packers. Paul had an eclectic taste in music and an excellent singing voice. He loved playing games, especially sheepshead. Above all, Paul loved Jesus and now resides with him in eternal glory.

My Dad was funny and goofy; he had a great sense of humor. He enjoyed all sports and played softball as part of his work’s team for many years. He was my rock-climbing buddy, and would always explore the adventurous, ‘scary,’ drop-off parts of hikes. He loved animals, especially enjoying horseback riding, which we liked to do together. He liked to travel and try out the local food wherever we were visiting. He was very friendly, a good listener, gentle, kind, and very thoughtful. He had a strong faith in Jesus and showed compassion toward others, especially his clients. He was very encouraging and saw the best in others.

~Written by Paul’s wife, Lori and daughter, Jessica.

Cynthia Osinski

My name is Lisa…I’m the one that loves Cindy with all my heart and soul. I’m her big sister. Cindy has been in heaven since July 2019. Though she is missed every day, I am happy and thankful that the recipients of her gifts can now see.

Cindy was a hard worker. She worked with the public all her short life as a waitress and made 99.9% of all her customers happy. She was very good at her job. She was well-liked and became very close with some of her customers. Any chance my sister would get, she’d sneak her tiny little feet my way for foot rubs and to have her feet squeezed tight.

My sister loved visiting with family and friends. Though she worked many weekends and holidays, all family gatherings made her very happy. She was born a twin. Her twin sister, Mary, lived to be one month old. Cindy has three older brothers (Jeff, Ron & Ken) and me (Lisa) and her favorite brother-in-law (Jeffrey).

Cindy was known to love a cold beer, loved puzzles, crosswords, and the Packers. Cynthia was also a Jeopardy queen. She would just rattle off the answers before the players. Cindy watched and played the game daily.

Cindy lost her life to breast cancer. She was only 55 years young and was two months shy of a long 5-year battle of trying and fighting to beat cancer. Cancer is a devastating word, to say the least, and Cindy wouldn’t wish this on anyone. With all the chemotherapy (nasty poison we called it) being pumped into her body, she figured that donating any organs was out of the question. We got home late from the hospital after my courageous, beautiful, amazing little sister Cindy had died when our phone rang. I almost didn’t pick up. I had nothing left in me. The loss of my sister was all I could bear. For some reason, I picked up, and I thank Cindy for that. The phone call was from Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin. It was a sad, sweet, and kind conversation. It was explained to me that Cindy could be an eye donor; we didn’t know breast cancer doesn’t affect the corneas and the chemotherapy treatments would not impact donation. I was my sister’s voice that night to say YES.

My brothers and I find comfort in knowing she is reunited with our Mom and Dad and many other loved ones we’ve lost along the way. I’m so thankful that she was able to donate and give the gift of sight to allow someone else to see. It fills my heart that she could do that. I wish the recipients of her gifts well. I know in my heart of heart that my sister Cindy is honored.

Matthew Brackman

My name is Susan and my son’s name is Matthew. He was my baby boy. He passed away when he was 24 from a heart attack. He went into the Army out of high school and served for 4 years. He was stationed in Germany for 2 of those years. It was so hard to have him so far from home. Once he was released from the Army he moved back home where he got a job in the meat department at a local grocery store. He loved making different kinds of sausages. He would bring some over and cookout for my late husband and me. He loved his job and interacting with people. I think he would have become a butcher.

He loved his family very much. He has a brother and 3 sisters. He had no children of his own, but he has 5 nieces and 4 nephews. He loved to spoil them and loved them with all of his heart. He left behind many people that loved him. When my husband passed, he was right there to give me his shoulder to cry on and to help me with the many things that needed to be done around the house. He loved to take short vacations with me. Our last vacation was to a hotel with a waterpark inside. We had a great time. He was also my movie date. The last movie that we saw together was Jumanji 2. That was 5 days before he passed.

Although my son could not donate to a particular person, he has helped with the education of the eye. I am so proud that he took the initiative to sign himself up as a donor.

God bless

Grant Richman

It’s a daunting, if not an impossible task, to pay homage to an ephemeral human being that earned the adoration of so many people. Over eight hundred patiently snaked a mournful line through the funeral home, two dozen traveling from around the country, and hundreds driving several hours to bid this otherworldly young man farewell and to share stories of the impact he had upon their lives. He is eternal 21-years old and in his death, he continues to sprinkle his positive influence upon others. That beautiful soul is, Grant Richman.

After exemplifying excellence in multiple categories of life, Grant departed this earthly world on April 20, 2018. Beginning in elementary school and throughout his years at UW-Madison, he, like many kids, strove for distinction in academics and sports alike. However, it was his drive for faultlessness in character that separated him from others. He valued kindness, consideration, and, most importantly, sensitivity to the needs of others. From the young children he nannied to the elderly veterans he cared for at William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Grant most often had the right “touch.” He could look past a person’s behavior and quickly interpret the reason for the behavior and on the spot know just the right thing to say and the most advantageous approach to take. His patience combined with caring words and actions showed great insight and maturity beyond his years.

Family, friends, parents, fellow students, teachers, coaches, and coworkers alike were amazed at his gift. He was requested to be the spokesperson at events, elected team captain of sports, chosen as Prom King, became a revered friend, and was appointed to many leadership roles. The last role Grant held was a great source of pride for him, co-president of the pre-medical club at UW-Madison.

Grant didn’t stand in the limelight for the ego but instead to be ever responsible and do the right thing. He enjoyed a moment at a microphone not for want of attention but to embrace the challenge of delivering the message with the most impactful words and tone. Proof that he didn’t seek accolades for his deeds was shared during one of many eulogies. In exchange for his self-taught barbering skills, peers donated money to Grant’s change jar. He secretly used the donations to purchase granola bars for the homeless. Weekly he walked the streets of Madison handing out his purchases and offering haircuts. Of his dozens of close nit friends, only one knew of his secret volunteerism.

Upon receiving his driver’s license at 16-years old, Grant immediately registered for organ donation. Ultimately, he improved the quality of many lives with his selfless gift and inspired others also to become registered donors.

His bigheartedness in life continues in additional ways post-death. Grant’s dear Chilton High School friends established a foundation in his name. Scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors who have exemplified a commitment to community volunteerism. A second memorial spearheaded by a physician at Calumet Medical Center was also established. Small but meaningful Grant-like gifts such as food, clothing, and gas cards are given to needy patients and their families.

Grant – our collective tears of sorrow could fill Plummer Lake, your beloved place where your ashes rest today. You still inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves as we continue to love and honor you each day through volunteerism and performing random acts of kindness. Perhaps readers of this tribute will consider doing the same to honor their loved one and thusly magnify your legacy as being God’s steward of selfless generosity.

You are dearly missed.

Darin Donlan

My name is LaVonne and my 46-year-old son who died was named Darin. Darin’s father died 30 years ago. Darin had two brothers, one older and one younger than him. Darin was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome. He had no will to thrive when he was born. It was a 24 hour job to give him enough nourishment to keep him alive. He had brain damage so his milestones were delayed. We stimulated him however we could to help him progress. Darin’s story is too long to put on paper but Darin developed into a delightful young man with qualities most of us wished we had. He always almost had a cheerful smile on his face. He was a very friendly social person who loved people! That is why it became important to us to donate Darin’s tissues so he could continue to be a friend to others even after his death.

If Darin met you once, he would hold out his hand and ask you for your name. When he met you again he would remember your name using both your first and last names. Darin was a wizard at putting puzzles together. His photogenic memory came in handy at home. If something was misplaced, we’d just ask Darin and he would go right to it. Darin’s favorite past time was shredding paper by hand. When he went to visit local farmers, he’d spread it out in their calf pens for bedding. Darin also had a pet pig named Chewy. Darin collected John Deere toys and enjoyed getting rides on tractors. He participated in the Special Olympics and won many medals and ribbons. Each summer Darin would attend camp. Darin graduated from high school. Darin loved to ride bicycles, roller skate, bowl, snowmobile, motorcycles, horseback rides, picnic, visit zoos, hayrides, swim, camp, fish, go to movies, stock car races, theme parks, and go cruising in the convertible with his brothers. Darin went out to eat with his family and friends on a regular basis. Darin was fortunate enough to have many wonderful people from all walks of life who helped support and advocate for him throughout his life.

Despite the many challenges Darin’s disability presented, he was one of my life’s greatest joys! Darin was loved and will never be forgotten.

Emily C. Lyons

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, eye, and tissue 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 lives more than 50 people.

Now a mother on a mission, Dawn Lyons-Wood is doing her part to promote organ, eye, and tissue 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 organ, eye and tissue donor here.

Bonnie Stauff

Bonnie was and is a hero to all of us – tenderly in her life and now bravely in her death. Bonnie was a kind and selfless soul. She walked softly through life, lifting up everyone around her. She radiated beauty.

Bonne was so loved by so many-

  • Her parents, Bob and Elaine, who lovingly raised
  • Her 2 daughters, Trina and Janelle, who were her best friends
  • Her 2 sons-in-laws, Tyler and Jose, who she loved like sons
  • Her 3 grandchildren, June, Isaac and Oscar, who were her world
  • Her 6 siblings, Bill, Becky, Bob, Beth, Barbie & Barrie, who were also her best friends
  • Her sisters and brothers-in-law, who she also loved as siblings
  • Her 17 nieces and nephews & their families
  • Her former husband, Curt
  • Her dear friend, Terry
  • So many more friends, cousins, aunts & uncles
  • And finally, every child she ever met

Bonnie was a preschool teacher who truly loved children with all her heart and soul. She touched countless children’s lives and changed the world and the future by sharing her love and magic with each of them.

Bonnie genuinely smiled and laughed all the time. She had the strength and wisdom to know that happiness is a choice, and she always found a way to be happy. In doing so, she spread so much joy in this world.

She was always up for anything and never complained.

Bonnie was beautiful inside and out. She was kind and generous. Anyone who knew her felt loved and blessed and was better for knowing her. She leaves a hole in our lives that a thousand people couldn’t fill.

As a mother, Bonnie always made Trina and Janelle feel completely loved, supported and safe. There was not a time that she wasn’t there for them-the big things, the small things, the best and the worst things, even if she was across the country – she came the second they needed her. She always knew what her daughters needed even if they didn’t.

Then she became a grandmother, “Nonnie”, and she shone even more. It is impossible to describe how much she loved her grandkids and how magical she was with them. The many special memories they have with her are priceless and the ones they won’t get to have are a tragic loss. All the love she poured into them in their few young lives will shape them and be carried forward for the rest of their lives.

The fact that her grandkids and lived far away never stopped “Nonnie” from seeing them all the time and knowing every single little thing about them. She travelled so frequently to see to see them, and them to see her. Bonnie knew the day to day schedules and the tiny details of each of her three grandkid’s lives. Trina and Janelle both say there were things Nonnie could do better for their kids than they could, and certain things only Nonnie could do. Bonnie could not get enough of the videos and pictures Trina and Janelle would send daily. According to almost everyone she knew, she would jump at the chance to share a story or photo or video, but she couldn’t quite make herself hand over the phone, so they ended up watching over her shoulder as she smiled and laughed!

Bonnie was the fourth child of seven, and she fit the “middle child” role perfectly. She was a peacemaker and a friend to everyone. Her younger sisters say she was the perfect role model when raising her two daughters with grace and quiet patience, attentiveness and self-sacrifice. They joked about “pretending” to take notes on Bonnie’s parenting, but they now admit that they weren’t really pretending. The seven siblings shared an incredibly close bond growing up and that has not changed to this day. The love that they share transcends all the generations of their family. Every one of her nieces and nephews have treasured memories of many special times with their “Auntie Bonnie.”

Bonnie was an amazingly organized person. Every single drawer, pile, box, bag, and project in her house was labelled. She labelled her own dishwasher “clean or dirty.” She made sure that she was never out of reach of a pair of scissors or reading glasses, just in case she needed one.

Bonnie loved birds and walking in nature, where she was a master of appreciating the small things. She would often stop to identify flowers, take in a view, or soak up the sunshine. She loved children and reading, singing, and playing. She loved talking and laughing with her sisters, daughters, and her friends. She loved summers at the family cottage. She loved her life and everyone in it.

She had so much more life to live and love to give, and in an instant it was lost. But now she gives her love in giving life. We are so proud of her for signing up to be an organ donor, and it leaves us with ray of solace to know a part of Bonnie will live on through others and continue to bring hope and joy to this world.

Bonnie was taken from us way too soon, and it’s hard to not be angry about that. We are all going to miss her. But along with the tragedy of losing Bonnie herself, we lost a spirit and virtues the world needs much more of, not less of. I’ll leave you today with a call to action. The best way to honor Bonnie and Bonnie’s legacy is to be more like her. Each day, let’s strive to be more patient with our children and loved ones. Let’s be kind to complete strangers. Let’s put ourselves second and other’s first. Let’s challenge ourselves to find and do small things, subtle thing for the people we love to lessen their burdens, without looking for any credit. And if you start labeling and dating leftover fruits, vegetables and casseroles in the fridge in Bonnie’s honor, I think she would like that too.

In the past week we’ve had time to reflect on the inspiring way Bonnie lived her life. Several common themes took shape and I’d like to end by sharing those with you today.

  • Keep life simple
  • Give yourself to the world
  • Be open to new opportunities
  • It’s never too late to try something new
  • And don’t forget to smile

Bradley Michael Chavez

My son Bradley is full of life. He is always full of smiles and had a lot of fight in him. He’s never been a quitter, always stuck up for the underdog and would give the shirt off his back to help someone else. He is adored by his family and friends. My son has an infectious laugh, sick and twisted sense of humor and a smile that lit up the darkest days. He is fearless, courageous, kind and sensitive and his future was wide open. I can only imagine what impact he would have made on the world today. He changed my life for the better as well as everyone else he encountered. He would be so proud to know that he carries on in the lives of so many still today. His donation helped people that he never even met. He has opened my eyes as well. I regularly give blood and platelets because of him. I am even a registered donor on the Be the Match donor program. All because of what my son was able to teach me. I speak of him in the present because he is still here with me. The only thing that changed was his address. Although Bradley was only here for 17 years, they were the best years of my life. I would give anything to meet the people who carry a part of him. I would love to look into their eyes and see him again.

Tim Touchett

Timothy Touchett was born to be a hero, enlisting in the Wisconsin National Guard at the age of 17 and affecting countless lives throughout his thirty years of life. In the military, Staff Sergeant Touchett worked tirelessly with the Wounded Warrior Program to ensure the state’s wounded, and their families received the medical care, resources, support and attention they had earned through their service. As the Training Non-Commissioned Officer for Waukesha’s 135th, Tim was active in promoting the success of his soldiers as a mentor, leader and advocate. In his role as Suicide Prevention Case Manager and Resiliency Trainer, he left his mark as a caring and compassionate friend and role model who made himself available at a moment’s notice to support the needs and overall well-being of Wisconsin’s troops. In his lifetime Tim created a legacy which will never be forgotten by those who knew him and continues to touch the lives and futures of those who never had the honor.

Tim was born in Long Lake, Wisconsin, to Barb and John Touchett, baby brother to Megan and Emily. He lived his life for small moments spent on the lake, fishing with his daughters, hiking in woods with crackling leaves beneath his feet, a smile on his lips and the laughter of his children surrounding him. Traveling home to northern Wisconsin from Madison, and later Waukesha would be the culmination of much anticipation, “home” was where Tim was happiest and despite the fact that his work often called him far from his home and those he loved, Tim’s heart was never far from the great woods, creeks and peace he would find while home.

Tim attended high school in Florence, Wisconsin, and college at UW-Platteville. He spent fourteen months deployed in Iraq from 2004-05 and many training and support missions which allowed him to travel the world during his life. In 2006, Tim married his high school sweetheart, Sarah, and together they built a life of laughter and love which was only amplified by the births of each of their daughters, Evelyn, Sophia and Delilah. Tim and Sarah built a partnership and life filled with laughter and overflowing with love as they raised their young family while always making time for each other. Tim will forever be remembered for his ability to make time for what was important in life.

His “girls” quickly became his life, and being a father, his greatest passion and calling. On weekends he would be spotted sledding through Waukesha with the girls, strolling the farmer’s market with little hands in his, picking apples at an orchard, beachside building sand castles and at the wheel of a boat with a huge grin on his face while the girls learned to find passion for the many experiences their dad shared with them.

Tim died unexpectedly on September 16, 2014 from an AVM rupture near his brainstem. His absence continues to be felt most heavily by all who knew and remember him. His joy, love and loyalty to his soldiers, his family and his country will never be forgotten. Tim was born to be a hero and being a hero came easily to him in his career and life as a soldier. He will live on in the memory as a hero to his family, especially his girls. In his death Tim became a hero to those who he had never met while on earth through his gift of organ, eye and tissue donation. His spirit continues to inspire, his legacy lives on and continues to touch lives in the spirit of his memory and the financial support of young people and veterans who receive scholarships and support in his name.

Michael Paul Helm

Son, Brother, Father, Friend, Artist, Creator, Teacher, Preacher, Counselor, Sinner, Survivor, Fighter, Faith-Filled Believer and the most wonderful, thoughtful, considerate, kind, loving, funny, caring and smiling man the world has ever known.

Michael began his journey in a small town in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois called Elgin. He moved with his family to an even smaller town a little closer to the Wisconsin border called Cary when he was in elementary school, and he lived there until he was in his late teens, and in the general northern Chicago, Illinois suburb areas until re-meeting his wife in 2002 (they had been school-mates early on in Cary in middle and high school) and relocating out of Illinois, as many have done, to a little town of about 8,000 people called Delavan right over the Wisconsin border close to one of his favorite childhood mini-vacation spots, his beloved Lake Geneva, a town which is surrounded by water, parks and beauty, in the mid 2000’s. Michael was one of 8 children, the third from the youngest. He has 3 older brothers, two older sisters and 2 younger sisters all of whom he adored, cherished, fought with, cried with, lived with, and who he; right up until the very end of his journey, never stopped taking care of or trying to make amends to, for all he felt he owed to them in one way or another. Read more here.

Tyler Hobach

Tyler Holbach was a helpful 20-year-old with a great sense of humor. He loved playing video games and watching the local evening news. Tyler was an excellent cook and enjoyed grilling. He also enjoyed spending time with his family, friends, and his dog Daisey Dee.

Tyler lost his battle against mental illness on December 29, 2017. Tyler renewed his driver’s license in September of 2017 and chose to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. With his selfless act of being a donor, he was able to help two people, from Morocco, to see.

The annual walk for T-Raw (Tyler Holbach) brings awareness to mental health and organ, eye and tissue donation. The walk will take place in May or June, annually, at The River Bend Trail in Merill, WI. Click here for more information.

Ryan Gellings

Ryan, 21, passed away on 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

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.

Jamie Wilson

Jamie Wilson

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

Evan Hauk

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

“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. ~Debbie Hoff

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Chris Persinger

Chris Persinger

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

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.