April is National Donate Life Month
By Marcy Patterson
Morgan County Coroner
Nothing can prepare a family for this type of devastating news. Early on the morning of December 16, 2022, 16-year-old Kelly Peters, of New Berlin, was involved in an accident on the Franklin-Alexander Road when her car crashed into another vehicle.
The accident left Peters in grave condition at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. As the community was praying for healing and her friends were visiting her bedside, her parents, Don and Heather Peters, were working to make sure their daughter’s death would be able to help someone. Kelly Peters succumbed to her injuries on December 17, 2022, and became an organ donor.
Both Don and Heather Peters are organ donors. Heather Peters said, “When Kelly turned 16, she asked if she could be an organ donor. Don and I are both signed up, so we said yes and it was put on her driver’s license.” In spite of her consent on her driver’s license, because she was a minor, the ultimate decision rested with her parents.
While dealing with the shock of their loss and their overwhelming emotions, they said a strong yes. “We did not have to think about the answer. This is what she would want.”
Kelly Peters was a great person. Her teachers, coaches, family and friends all stated she was “one of a kind.” Her mother described her: “Kelly was a great kid. Very kind, generous and humble. She played volleyball, basketball and softball for Routt Catholic High School. Her favorite sport was the sport season she was in at the time.”
As word of her death spread through the area communities, entire school districts wore blue — her favorite color — in honor of her. There were moments of silence, mentions of her dedication to her community and family, and many people collected funds to honor her name.
Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon has firsthand knowledge of the organ donation process. On May 7, 2017, Allmon’s 16-year-old stepdaughter, Madeline “Maddie” Finch, died in a single-car accident near New Berlin. Allmon said, “When I was notifying my parents of her death, I thought about donation as an option for our family. For many of the families I have worked with, including my own, organ and tissue donation provides healing benefits. To know that this tragic and unnecessary loss of life changed the lives of so many others for the better somehow makes it just a bit more bearable.”
Allmon continued, “The Peters family decided to share their daughter so that others can live. That is a powerful legacy. It is a difficult decision to make during the worst days of your life, but it does help, or it has helped our family, knowing our loss saved the lives of others. Our office supports the efforts of the Gift of Hope.”
Heather Peters explained, “The process [of organ donation] was overwhelming at first, but the Gift of Hope nurses were very kind, loving and grateful to our family throughout the whole process. Kelly was a perfect donor because she was young and healthy, and her organs were not damaged.” Her family is proud to share this information they received from the Gift of Hope:
♥ Her heart went to a male in his 20s.
♥ Her liver went to a male in his 60s.
♥ Her right kidney went to a male in his 60s.
♥ Her left kidney went to a male in his 40s.
♥ Her pancreas went to a male in his 40s.
♥One knee graft went to a 22-year-old
female in New York.
♥ One knee graft went to a 47-year-old female in Texas.
♥ One knee graft went to a 21-year-old in Texas.
♥ One hand graft went to a 61-year-old
female in Washington. (She had been waiting one full year for a specialized graft).
♥ One hand graft went to a male in New Mexico.
Kelly Peters was also a tissue donor.
It may take up to one year to know all the impact of the tissue grafts.
During Kelly Peters’ life, she was a good friend. She was a great student. She was a loved daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, friend and athlete. She loved to hang out with her friends and her boyfriend. She loved to join her dad, her siblings and her cousins working on the family farm. In her young life, she made a major impact on many people. In her tragic passing, she has become a hero, a miracle maker … and with the support of her family and friends, she offered the gift of life to others with her passing.
On March 17, 2023, the students, faculty and staff from Routt Catholic High School and Our Saviour School joined the Peters family for a flag-raising ceremony hosted by the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network on what would have been her golden birthday.
Currently, approximately 60% of Morgan County is registered to be organ and tissue donors. In 2022, one family in Morgan County gave the gift of organ donation and 10 families shared the gift of tissue donation. It is our wish today to add to our local registry with “First Person Consent” (signing up on the registry). This electronic signature makes the decision to be an organ/tissue donor legally binding, and your wishes will be honored. This week, we hope that you will #BeLikeKelly and sign up to be a donor.
Visit https://www.giftofhope.org/join-the-registry/ or scan the QR code.
Don and Heather Peters and their children Kirby, Jacob and Karly wish to express their sincere appreciation to everyone for the love, support and prayers that have been given to Kelly and all of them during this time.
“Observed in April each year, National Donate Life Month helps raise awareness about donation, encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation,” according to donatelife.net. The Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network coordinates the organ and tissue donation process. This photo shows balloons being released in front of Routt Catholic High School in celebration of what would have been the 17th birthday of Kelly Peters.