An 18-year-old college student recently wrote a letter to Zoey Tuttle’s parents, thanking them for the life-changing choice they made to let Zoey be an organ and tissue donor after the horrific accident that claimed Zoey and four other young people in April of 2015.
The audience at the Urbana 5/Iowa Donor Network Race at the Benton County Speedway heard about that letter.
While most people k already now of the life-saving importance of heart, lung, liver, and kidney transplants, the 4th annual Urbana 5 event included a reminder of the life-changing benefits of other tissue transplants.
The first Urbana 5 event took place in 2015 just weeks after the deaths of Zoey and Hunter Tuttle, Nicole Jacobson, Triston Randall and Quentin Ary in an accident near Urbana.
Brittany Usher, a member of the Urbana 5 Memorial Foundation and a long-time family friend, read parts of the letter from that tissue recipient Sunday.
Signed, “From the kid who can walk pain-free,” the letter described how the writer grew up with a rare disorder called tibial torsion, which caused painful foot deformities.
“My feet grew completely out of alignment, pointing outwards, not unlike a duck,” wrote the student, who said he had lived all his life with “constant and unbearable pain after walking or standing for an extended period of time.”
The transplant of tissue from Zoey changed all that.
“Now, I am able to walk, run and even jump without discomfort,” wrote the student. “I know this may not mean much, but your loved one’s passing saved my life. Continued inactivity surely would hae mean an early death for me. I’ve lived my entire, short existence as an outsider, a defect, a biological mistake, a freak…”
Thanks to Zoey’s gift, that person can now have a nearly normal and pain-free life.
“I can go on trips with friends or loved ones and not have to sit down every few minutes. I can simply go on a walk around the block. I relish this new-found freedom. I will be grateful for your loved one’s sacrifice until the day I die. I hope you can find solace in the their, and your, kindness, is the greatest gift anyone ever has, or will, give me.”
As she has done in the previous races, Usher spoke on behalf of the families whose children died in that accident, thanking fans and sponsors. Donations made more prize money for race winners, as well as door prizes (including 15 bicycles for children) possible again this year.
In addition to honoring the memory of the Urbana 5, the event helps raise funds for the Iowa Donor Network and the Urbana 5 Memorial Foundation.
Concerning the foundation and its scholarship program, Usher explains: “We were able to give out five $500 scholarships to Vinton Shellsburg and Center Point-Urbana students the past two years. The winners have to be able to show adversity in their lives and explain how they were able to overcome it; our winners this year were Hannah Tilley, Erin wood, Emily Droste, Chad Bryant and Logan Hadsall.”
Usher told the audience that the families of all of the Urbana 5 “selflessly made the decision to allow them to be organ and tissue donors.”
“This year, our group brainstormed on ways we could help people understand just how important organ and tissue donation is and we wanted to be able to reach people on a deeper level. We wanted to do something different so people start having conversations about donation and we want to help encourage people to sign up for donation. So instead of standing up here and giving you all of the facts on donation, I am going to read you a letter written by someone whose life is forever changed by our very own Zoey Tuttle. With the permission of Zoey’s parents, we would like the share this letter with you with the hope that this letter sparks a fire within you to be as passionate about organ and tissue donation as we are.”
After reading the letter, Usher concluded: “The gift of life is the most amazing gift you can give and just as this letter explains, the gift of life does not always mean donating a vital organ, it can be as simple as improving the quality of life in another person. Please, talk to your family, your friends, co workers and even strangers about organ donation. Please help us advocate for donation and get more people to sign up to be donors.”
Heather Tuttle thanked those who helped make the event a success.
“Last night was amazing , from the love we felt from the stands as you all held up five fingers while we made the parade laps, to all the drivers near and far who showed up to put on a great show, not knowing if the weather would hold out,” she said. “I felt love, I felt community, I felt the kid’s presence. A big to the Iowa Donor Network for partnering with us once again and to the Benton County Speedway for hosting this event every year. Losing the kids has been the hardest thing ever but last night it was a celebration of their lives. The Urbana 5 race was a success again this year and we couldn’t do it without all of you.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.”
See more photos HERE.
See a recap of the races from the IMCA web site HERE.