By Barb Arland-Fye
Garrett Brockway’s dad thinks his son would have wanted to join him and 11 other bicyclists on RAGBRAI next week to promote organ donation. The 10-year-old altar server and student at Notre Dame Elementary in Burlington died five years ago from injuries suffered in an accident.
His parents, Bruce and Tiffini Brockway of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington, donated the fourth-grader’s organs, corneas and tissues to help as many other people as possible in their time of need.
“Garrett helped 132 people across the country and in Canada,” Bruce said. Saying yes to organ donation “can make a huge impact. If you impact just one life it’s monumental. You’re helping people to have another day with their loved ones.”
The 12 cyclists participating on “Pedal for Life – Team Share It” during RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) have different ties to the organ donation story. “We have donor family members, living donors and donation supporters joining in to help promote and support organ donation along the 428-mile ride,” Bruce said. The goal is to raise funds for the Iowa Donor Network and awareness about the gift of organ donation.
“People come to ride RAGBRAI from all over the globe so we figured, ‘Why not let them come to us?’ Our team will be honoring a special donor each day of the ride and special cards will be made for each of our bikes so that we can remember and reflect on these wonderful people as we ride that day.” Team members will also distribute 2,000 Team Share It wristbands to riders along the route. “I’m super excited about it,” Bruce said. Tiffini and their daughter Addi, 9, will be supporting Team Share It from the home front.
Dressed in matching jerseys that read “Team Share It,” the cyclists plan to visit with other riders on the “pie and ice cream stops” along RAGBRAI. They’ll answer people’s questions, hand out wrist bands and help individuals with sign up to be organ donors through a smart phone app. Or, they can sign up when they renew their driver’s license. Donors should let their family know of their intentions, Bruce advised.
RAGBRAI serves as a spin-off of sorts for Pedal for Life’s fundraising efforts. Garrett’s great-uncle Dave organized the first Pedal for Life ride five years ago, riding from Washington, D.C., to Iowa City with three friends.
They stopped in Burlington where Dave advised Bruce, “You ought to drop a couple of pounds and join us.” Bruce got in shape and rode the second Pedal for Life ride from Iowa City to New Orleans and last year’s ride from Denver, Colo., to Riverside, Iowa. On each long-distance ride, the riders honor organ donors, recipients and families of organ donors. “We arrive in spandex biker shorts but we’re there to honor their loved ones,” Bruce quipped.
More than 100,000 Americans of all ages are waiting for an organ transplant, according to the Pedal for Life website. Organ donation can improve, extend or save lives … “all they need is a donor.”
Making that decision can be heart-wrenching in the midst of tragedy, Bruce acknowledged. He and Tiffini consulted with Father Marty Goetz and Father Bruce DeRammelaere, both new to the parish at the time; and Father Patrick Hilgendorf, the parish’s former pastor; and chaplains at University of Iowa Hospitals.
Each assured the grieving parents that the Catholic Church considers organ donation to be a gift of life. Fr. Hilgendorf himself had signed up previously to be an organ donor.
He’s worn out two organ donation bracelets and is now on his third one. The green-colored bracelet with white lettering features two crosses and the words: “Donate Life. Garrett M. Brockway.” “People will ask about it; it brings attention to organ donation.”
“When Garrett passed, it changed our whole perspective on life,” Bruce said. “We’re only here temporarily. When I’m done with my body, I’m done. It was a gift to me; let it be a gift to someone else.”