“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
This was the favorite bible verse of Kaleb McLaughlin.
Kaleb, a graduate from North Central High School, suffered a tragic fate on July 24, 2013, dying in an auto accident. He was just twenty days into his twentieth year. His loss has impacted his family a great deal, from his three siblings to his parents.
“It’s changed us all.” Kevin Oxender, Kaleb’s father, expressed.
Obviously, the grief from that day will stay with them forever. But there’s more to it than that. Kaleb’s giving spirit came on display at his funeral, where total strangers to the family told stories of how he had helped them, even though he barely knew most of them himself. That spirit found a way to live on, as he is still helping others to this day.
You see, Kaleb was an organ donor.
His eyes, skin, and bones were all used to enrich the lives of others. While his heart couldn’t be used because he died instantly, his heart valves were given to someone as well.
“It’s a bittersweet experience.” Kim Oxender, Kaleb’s mother, stated about organ donation.
That’s to be expected. While it’s great to see one’s own son live on through others thanks to his selflessness, the fact that he is no longer around has to weigh heavily on them.
But it was organ donation that gave them a new direction in life. Seeing how Kaleb’s organs had helped so many people led them to seek out more information.
“The more I learned about it, the more on board I got.” Kevin recalled. “It’s simply amazing how it changes someone’s life.”
Even the funeral preparations served as an education for organ donation.
“They treat you with such respect and care.” Informed Kim.
Despite giving away his eyes and skin, Kaleb was prepared in such a way that he still appeared normal during his ceremony. Kevin and Kim were blown away by the whole process of donation.
But being blown away wasn’t enough for the couple. They had to play an active role.
Last July, the Oxenders organized a memorial ride to raise money for organ donation awareness, an event that will occur annually. During the initial run, 134 bikers stretched three and a half miles as they traveled through almost every town in Williams County, beginning and ending in Pioneer.
The ride concluded with the caravan passing Kaleb’s grave. The plan was for just Kevin and Kim to stop at his resting place as the rest of the riders passed by. Instead, everyone stopped, a great sign of respect for an admirable young man.
“We made a lot of friends that day.” Kevin said. “And they’ll all be back next year.”
This year’s run will take place on July 11, and will involve a 5K run, another ride down the same path, and a car show. The Oxenders’ goal is to double the amount of riders from the previous year, and they’re confident that goal will be met.
The Memorial Ride isn’t their only method of raising awareness on organ donation, though. In fact, they’re always looking for new ways to do so.
That’s how they came up with the idea to try and have decals place on the back of semi-trucks.
First, they contacted Donate Life America, for permission to use their symbol for the plan. After obtaining that, they got in touch with David Michael LLC. in Pioneer, and had him use a vinyl printer to come up with the design. Starting at the first of the year, the Oxenders have a couple of trucking companies they are looking to approach about the project.
This movement isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, either. Kim’s greatest fear is that her son will be forgotten, though she certainly will never forget.
“Every night I think about Kaleb.”
“It’s a hole in your soul that will never heal.” Added Kevin.
Neither one would change anything if they had the chance, though.
“Selfishly, I do want him back.” Kim admitted. ‘But to take him from where he’s at now (heaven)? No.”
Now that is trusting in the lord with all your heart.
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