Tuesday, January 29th, the first Donate Life Virginia Assembly Pin Day was held at the capital in Richmond. Over 70 volunteers and staff members from LifeNet Health, Donate Life Virginia, the Donate Life Virginia Council, and the Lions Medical Eye Bank met in Richmond to spend the day speaking with state legislators and their staff, sharing the message of organ, eye, and tissue donation. A large number of the 70 participants were donor family members and those who received the \”gift of life\” through donation. My husband, Chuck and our daughter, Emily Sheipe were with me on this special day. The day turned out to be more than we could have imagined. The brilliant sun shone down as the weather warmed us after the cold snap which brought snow last week. The sunshine brightened our spirits as we walked into the General Assembly building that morning. Thoughts of Paul , his unquenchable spirit of adventure and his love of people filled our minds. I have spoken and shared Paul\’s story and our commitment to organ, eye, and tissue donation more times than I can count, but this day was not about speaking to a group. This was, of course, an opportunity to share knowledge and information about donation, shaking the hands of the legislators and their staff. It was also a day to meet friends who we have cultivated through the past six years since our son died and to make new friends. But this was also about honoring Paul\’s memory.
Ron Villaneuava of Virginia Beach shared his personal story of the loss of his sister, who was also 18, over twenty years ago. He shared that their family chose to give the gift of life to others by donating his sister\’s organs and tissue. This set the tone for the resolution which he wrote and that was presented to us at the General Assembly later that morning. His beautiful words touched those who were present. John Cosgrove stood by as Ron presented two resolutions, one for Paul and our family and the other for Chris Nalley, from Richmond, who is a double lung transplant recipient. Chris is also a donor advocate speaking across the state as I do. It was difficult to hold back the tears when we all received a standing ovation from the entire General Assembly. The gift of \”hope\” through organ, eye, and tissue donation will continue to be my mission as I strive to reach out and educate while sharing Paul\’s story.