Gift of Hope Heroes


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Gift of Hope Heroes

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The Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is working to save lives by asking Illinois residents to "Say Yes" to organ, tissue and eye donation.

Gift of Hope is highlighting the selfless decisions by former IHSA student-athletes who were tragically lost too soon, but who left us as heroes due to their decison to SAY YES to being donors.

See their stories of donation below and learn more about becoming a donor here.


Jermaine Cullom

Jermaine Cullum was the high school homecoming prince and an athlete who joined the varsity basketball team as a freshman. Before he stepped into his first class at Christ the King High School in Chicago, he had a full-ride scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota.

It was while playing in a basketball tournament that Jermaine collapsed on the court.
A nurse and a doctor watching the game kept Jermaine alive so he could be transported to a hospital. He lived for three more days there, but never regained consciousness. Jermaine’s heart attack was caused by an undetected heart condition.

Read more of Jermaine's story here


Brody Wilson

Brody Wilson was the kid whom everybody wanted to be around. As an incoming freshman at Williamsville High School, he flourished in soccer, and had a passion for music and arts.

When Brody passed away suddenly, he was eligible to become an organ and tissue donor. His parents, Steve and Carla, were asked to authorize donation, since Brody was not yet 18.  The choice was a simple one for them. Steve said, “We believe that our bodies are just shells that we live in for a while. Under the circumstances, his shell might as well be used to save others’ lives. It was just the right thing to do.” Brody’s parents found comfort in knowing that Brody’s selflessness throughout his life would also continue with his passing.

Read more of Brody's story here


Don August

His family, friends and fans remember University of Illinois Hall of Fame volleyball coach Donald “Don” August as someone who always strived to do the right thing.

Don coached varsity volleyball at Oak Park and River Forest High School and became a middle school physical education teacher. Known for working hard and having fun while he did, he was a favorite among his colleagues and a mentor to his students. He was named Illinois Boys’ Volleyball Coach of the Year, and the Oak Park and River Forest High School gym was dedicated in his honor.

Read more of Don's story here


Livi Sonetz

Olivia “Livi” Sonetz was a force of nature — energetic, kind, unstoppable, fearless and unforgettable. Tragically, Livi, who was a senior at Normal Community West High School in Normal, Ill., died on March 7 after an automobile accident one day earlier.

Despite the magnitude of their loss and sorrow, her parents, Laura and Paul, authorized organ and tissue donation on Livi’s behalf. Through the gift of donation, Livi saved three lives with her organ gifts, and her tissue gifts have already helped to heal many others.

Read more of Livi's story here


Izaiah Francheschi

After a tragic accident took 15-year-old Izaiah Francheschi’s life, he became an organ and tissue donor. His gifts have saved and enhanced the lives of people in 10 states and in South Korea—including the life of a six-month-old baby boy.

The infant received part of Izaiah’s liver in lifesaving organ transplant. A few months later, his mom Irma had a chance to meet the baby whose life Izaiah saved and the infant’s family. She saw in the healthy baby that Izaiah’s legacy lives on.

Izaiah was an athletic 15-year-old with big plans. He was passionate about basketball. Irma says Izaiah spent every free minute training and conditioning for basketball season and often talked about the house he would buy for his family once he played for the NBA.

Read more of Izaiah's story here


Cord Pearce

When Cord Pearce of Morton, Ill. received his instruction permit to drive, he made it known to his family that he wanted to be an organ & tissue donor.

When the 16-year-old unexpectedly passed away less than a year later, his family knew his desire to help others through donation.

“Agreeing to allow Cord to be a donor and give the gift of life to someone would be honoring his wishes because he was such a giving and caring person and always thinking of others,” Cord’s mother, Amie, says.

Cord donated 29 bone grafts after his unexpected death. His tissue gifts have enhanced the lives of recipients in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

“Hopefully, these people are doing well, and they are living healthier lives,” Amie says.

Read more of Cord's story here



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