Bench honoring organ donor, 7, installed in Aurora

AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- An Aurora family is finding a path to healing after an unthinkable tragedy took the life of their young son.

Dylan Richardson, 7, was killed in a car wreck in July 2007. After the accident, Dylan's family donated his organs, a decision that saved three lives.

Dylan's kidney is keeping Joe Van Dolah alive today.

"Every morning you wake up, you thank the good Lord that you are here, and every night I go to bed, I send my prayer to Dan, Lisa and Dylan," Van Dolah said.

Dylan's parents, Dan and Lisa Richardson, are working to keep their son's memory alive by spreading the word about organ and tissue donation.

"In life, Dylan, our 7-year-old Dylan, loved to play being a superhero. Spiderman was his absolute favorite. And in death, he also lives on as a superhero," Dan Richardson said. "He is a superhero to Joe, who received his kidneys, and Ali who received his liver, and to the young girl in South Carolina who received his heart."

To honor Dylan, the Gift of Hope donor network, installed a commemorative bench in Aurora's Harmony Park outside the Vaughn Athletic Center, where Dylan attended summer programs.

The dedication ceremony highlighted the young boy's life, love of music, animals, sports, and more.

Elected officials and community members helped celebrate Dylan's life and the effect he had on the lives of so many.

According to Van Dolah, Dylan's gift gave him a new lease on life.

"I would not have been able to see my three grandkids," Van Dolah said. "It gave me a whole new purpose in life, it really did."

Van Dolah is a long-time volunteer with Shriner's Hospitals, which helps children across Missouri get to hospital appointments every day. He said he tries to give back every day.

The bench dedication also marks National Donate Life Month, when Americans are encouraged to become organ, eye and tissue donors. Right now, there are over 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. 4,000 of those people live in Illinois.

According to Gift of Hope, an average of 22 people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant, and someone is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
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