The day after their 13-year-old daughter, Taylor Storch, sustained a severe brain injury in a skiing accident in Vail, Colo., her parents, Tara and Todd, were asked as she was dying whether they would be willing to donate her organs. They agreed that Taylor would want that.
The next day as the transplant teams were working, the Storches heard that Taylor’s heart would go to a woman in Arizona, her liver would go to a 2-year-old, and others would receive organs, too. The Storches learned about the paperwork needed to establish contact with Taylor’s organ recipients if those patients were willing.
Before the Storches left Grand Junction, their representative from Donor Alliance, an organization similar to Life Connection of Ohio, let them know that one Colorado man would receive a kidney, another would receive Taylor’s second kidney and her pancreas, and her corneas would also go to recipients.
Taylor’s parents wanted to honor their daughter in her hometown of Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth, so they decided to plant a tree at the middle school she attended. People in Coppell would collect donations.
Arriving in Coppell, the Storches saw residents lining the streets in tribute. Taylor’s accident and death was news in Dallas, and people wanted to help. More than 1,800 people attended Taylor’s funeral at a Roman Catholic church.
In the next days, Mr. Storch found that many people wait for organs, and few people donate. He wondered how to get more people to register as donors. Then he learned that people had contributed more than $30,000 in Taylor’s memory—much more than was needed to plant a tree, and even the tree turned into a bigger landscaping project, with most of the labor and materials donated, too. Money could go to scholarships.
Soon Mr. Storch felt a divine call to leave his job as a media consultant and start the Taylor’s Gift Foundation to encourage organ donation. The Storches took part in a documentary film about organ donation.
And in that same time period, recipients of Taylor’s organs started reaching out through social media to the Storches.
The woman in Arizona is a nurse, and Mrs. Storch was able to hear the heartbeat that had been Taylor’s. The kidney and pancreas recipient had been a cowboy. The other kidney recipient realized from news reports that Taylor was his donor, and he called the Taylor’s Gift Foundation and left a message. And a teenage girl named Ashley with a new cornea became obsessed with Texas.
Todd and Tara Storch, with coauthor Jennifer Schuchmann, tell the stories of the four recipients the Storches know, and of Taylor and the family, in a new book, Taylor’s Gift: A Courageous Story of Giving Life and Renewing Hope, published by Revell.
Mr. Storch said he hopes the book shows “that a gift is given in a tragic moment, and all the beauty that comes from that,” and that as a result many people will register as donors.
“We consider it a wonderful opportunity to make the world just a little bit better place when we’re gone, and we wrap it into the phrase ‘outlive yourself,’” Mr. Storch said. “There are 18 people on average that are passing away every day just because of the lack of organs.”
The Storches also have a lighter side of donation advocacy. OPI Nail Lacquer created a “Taylor blue” color nail polish, for which $7 of every $10 goes directly toward funding the Taylor’s Gift Foundation, Mr. Storch said. On the Web page taylorsgift.org/taylorblue, there is a “paint it forward” campaign.
“I have my left thumb painted Taylor blue,” Mr. Storch said. “For the men out there, it’s a very easy way to give a thumbs-up, and it’s a great conversation starter for organ donation.”
Though Taylor’s death was tragic, the Storch family found a way to make her legacy positive. “I share what my grandfather said to me,” Mr. Storch said. “It’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to it that does.”
People can register as organ donors by going to taylorsgift.org or donatelifeohio.org.