Ralph Strangis: Taylor's Gift
Monday, 11.15.2010 / 6:30 AM CT / News
By Ralph Strangis
|More: Taylor's Gift Night at American Airlines Center|
I found out more about the story a little at a time. Despite spinning heads and unimaginable grief, Taylor’s mother and father gave permission for Taylor to be an organ donor. That decision not only literally gave life to others, but set a course for Todd (her father) to leave his job and start “Taylor’s Gift”, a non-profit foundation dedicated to increasing awareness about organ donation, especially among young people.
My friend Jayne, also a friend of Todd and Tara left me a voice message early in the summer. “Ralphie… it’s Jayne… I’m sitting here with a good friend having coffee and you have to come and meet us because you two really need to become friends…” Jayne had already told me about Todd and “Taylor’s Gift”. She had urged me to become an organ donor. The season had ended, I was heading off to do some traveling, and play some golf, and well, I’d meet Todd one of these days.
Jayne and I had coffee a few weeks later and she was adamant that I first become an organ donor and then that I get involved in Todd’s cause. I would later find out from Todd how much Jayne had done by way of helping him and the family in those early days and weeks following the accident.
On a hot summer Monday morning I finally went to www.taylorsgift.org and became an organ donor. It took me all of 5 minutes. So with that momentum, I called Jayne and left her a voicemail that she didn’t have to harass me anymore and when did she want to have coffee with me and Todd. I didn’t get a call back – but she was probably busy. I emailed her Tuesday morning. I didn’t hear back. On Wednesday morning I opened my newspaper and was horrified to read about my friend Jayne, our Mayor.
I went to the “Taylor’s Gift” website later that morning and left a general email with my contact information for Todd. A few minutes later he called. We spoke about what happened with our friend, and got together the next day. We’ve become fast friends. Jayne was right – Todd and I got along immediately.
The thing about Todd is, he is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. Of course losing a child is the worst thing that can happen, and he and his family feel it every day. But he’s focused his energy on using the tragedy to make things better. There has been soooo much support; he’s got people literally chasing him to work with him. His infectious spirit draws you in, and the cause is easy to get behind. He doesn’t want money – just a few minutes of your time. And that’s all he wanted from me. Well, that and the odd lunch at the local sushi place…
So like Todd, I start thinking, what else can I do? And so I call Colin Faulkner (our ex-marketing VP) and Joe Nieuwendyk and we start tossing around ideas for a “Taylor’s Gift” night with the Stars. Lora Farris from our Community Relations staff jumped right on board, and we started planning the event. And it’s funny how things work. We look for a date and settle on Saturday, November 20 against Colorado. Then we realize that’s where the accident happened. So I email Jean Martineau, a longtime friend from the Colorado Avalanche and tell him what we’re doing. Then Steve “Sudsy” Sumner, our equipment manager says “let me work on it…”. And between “Sudsy” and Jean and Joe and AVS GM Greg Sherman and the hockey departments – both teams agree that they’ll tape their sticks with “Taylor’s Gift” blue in warm up and donate EVERY stick to the charity. We’ve got blue ties for team personnel, and a spot for people to register to become organ donors at the game.
I’ve been around a long time – and I’ve really never heard of both teams participating in something like this. The night is all about moving forward – as Todd puts it – “be a hero – be an organ donor”.
Taylor is a hero. Her family is working hard to make sure that as many people as possible get the same chance.
And I’m just a guy who found a way to help a couple of friends out.
To purchase discounted tickets for Taylor's Gift Night at the American Airlines Center, go to dallasstars.com/taylorsgift and enter offer code: stars