It was just over two years ago that Valley Christian junior Drew Swank suffered traumatic head injuries in a football game against Lacrosse-Washtucna.
The 17-year-old was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center that Friday in October where he underwent three surgeries. He passed away two days later.
Family and friends of Drew Swank gathered at Sacred Heart Medical Center last week to help decorate a “floragraph” image of Drew’s face that will be part of a float in the Tournament of Roses parade on Jan. 2, promoting the benefits of organ and tissue donation. In Oct. 2009, the Valley Christian student suffered fatal head injuries in a football game. His heart, kidneys and other organs were donated to a total of eight recipients.
The following week, VCHS football coach Jim Puryear described the Panthers’ starting cornerback as “a good teammate with a great smile.”
“We need to honor his life,” Puryear said. “We need to remember that we are citizens of the next world.”
Drew’s parents, Don and Patti, released a statement that same week, indicating that their son’s organs had been donated.
Last week, close to 150 people – including around 50 VCHS students – gathered at the hospital where Drew was treated in the autumn of 2009. This time, family and friends met to honor a legacy and observe the life-saving gift of organ and tissue donation.
A “floragraph” of Drew’s face – composed of materials like flowers, seeds, plants and coffee grounds – will be part of a float sponsored by Donate Life in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 2. At Sacred Heart on Dec. 9, those who knew Drew decorated the final portions of the design before it made its way to southern California. Drew’s image will be one of 71 portraits representing donors on the float.
“It’s neat to have our son honored and remembered,” said Don.
Patti and three of Drew’s seven siblings will make the trip to Pasadena next month to be part of the festivities. A sister, Tara, works as a critical care nurse at the University of Michigan Health Care System, treating transplant patients.
A total of eight people benefited from Drew’s donation two years ago. His heart, kidneys, liver and corneas were among the contribution.
Don and Patti have meant two of the recipients and their families.
“You think about your sight and other things you take for granted,” Don said.
“We know how precious life is and to see someone get that second chance is amazing.”
Nearly 29,000 people in the U.S. received transplants in 2010 according to DonateLife, a national advocacy group that promotes organ and tissue donation. Making the indication to be a donor can be done by marking a space on your driver’s license or by registering at www.donatelife.net.
Drew had plans to begin vocational/technical studies at North Idaho College after high school. He enjoyed fixing things and had skills as a mechanic.
In addition to promoting the mission of Donate Life, Don and Patti have printed out thousands of cards with Drew’s likeness that speak of the family’s Christian faith.
Students at Valley Christian say Drew’s influence still reverberates at the school. He was known as a thoughtful person with a good heart and a reliable sense of humor.
“Drew was always a positive guy, always really funny,” said senior Noah McConahy. “He made everyone feel appreciated. Not one person was ever bullied or made fun of by him.”
One year, Drew bought roses for every girl in his class because he was concerned that “someone would feel left out,” McConahy recalls.
A signed football jersey of Drew’s is displayed in the VCHS lobby. Beyond photos and mementos, McConahy said the memory of his friend’s caring approach is what lingers on.
“It’s not like Drew’s left our school really,” McConahy said. “When I think of how I should treat a person, I think of him. He really left an imprint here.”