Parents of boy killed by alligator at Disney World advocate for pediatric organ donation in new campaign

The parents of the 3-year-old boy who was tragically killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World are calling for organ donation for children in a new campaign to coincide with National Donate Life Month in April.

In June 2016, Lane was playing Thomas Graves on a beach outside Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa when an alligator attacked him, grabbed him and dragged him into the lake. Father Matt Graves jumped into the water but was unable to save his son. The boy’s body was found 16 hours later, the Associated Press reports.

To honor his memory, Matt and his wife Melissa Graves founded The Lane Thomas Foundation to help other families who are fighting for the lives of their children. The couple in Omaha, Neb. Hopes other families will consider organ donation for children this month with a new #KeepLoveAlive campaign. The PSA corresponds to National Donate Life Month and National Pediatric Transplant Week April 18-24, the foundation said.

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“The foundation’s vision is that not a single child dies waiting for an organ,” said Matt as he appeared on TODAY on Thursday.

According to the federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there are currently 2,000 children on the national transplant waiting list. About 25% of children are under the age of 6, the foundation says.

Two children linked by the Lane Thomas Foundation are Olivia Swedberg and KeVon Long, per Live On Nebraska and TODAY. Swedburg died of an untreatable, incurable brain tumor at the age of 3, and mother Lauressa Gillock made the emotional decision to donate her young daughter’s organs.

“I’ve always been an organ donor, but I didn’t even make that decision for a child. I knew I was going to lose her, and I knew we could help others,” Gillock said Thursday. “So I fought past my grief and we were able to do organ donation.”

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On a rare occasion, Gillock recently met the boy and his mother VonKeisha Long, who insisted that their families are forever linked.

“She lives on through my son forever, and she will always be a part of him,” said VonKeisha.

Now, the foundation’s #KeepLoveAlive campaign hopes to raise awareness about the life-saving cause and inspire conversations about organ donation in the event of a sudden tragedy.

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“It’s a dark place that no parent ever wants to go,” said Dr. Alan Langnas, head of the transplant center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “It just takes a tremendous amount of courage for these families to face the current situation, the courage to think beyond themselves, how to turn this terrible event in their personal life into an opportunity for hope for people they don’t. once to know. “

Since the nonprofit’s inception in 2017, the Lane Thomas Foundation has helped 93 families of children who have undergone organ transplants to date.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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