Just shy of a year after Zac’s Challenge was formed, the family and supporters of Zac Wildhaber are celebrating meeting their first goal of registering 1,000 organ donors.
Zac Wildhaber was a Union High School student who was in a fatal vehicle accident in February 2012. His parents, Amy and Troy Wildhaber, Beaufort, made the decision to donate their son’s organs.
Soon after, they formed Zac’s Challenge to help educate the public about organ, tissue and eye donation.
In the last year, family members and others have given about 40 presentations and organized booths to help promote organ donation, and their hard work has paid off, as organizers celebrated 1,000 registries April 21. The celebration was five days prior to the one-year anniversary of forming Zac’s Challenge.
“It’s a fabulous feeling,” said Amy Wildhaber, adding there are many people who helped reach the goal.
“It’s a wonderful legacy for Zachary for 25,000 people to have been affected by his means,” she said.
Each organ donor has the potential to help 25 to 50 people with organs, skin and bones.
So far, 1,026 have registered to be an organ donor in Zac’s name. The count may be much higher because not every person who decides to donate their organs because of Zac lets the family know.
Some may have registered in other states or simply signed the back of their card at the DMV, said Wildhaber, who thinks her son would be a little embarrassed by the attention Zac’s Challenge has gained.
“He’s never been one to be in the spotlight,” she said. “Zac had a heart of gold. He would have done this for somebody else. He would have helped anyone. It broke his heart if he saw someone who was sad or sick.”
When Zac was about 6 or 7 years old, he was sick with a kidney infection. The strep virus had attacked his kidneys and he spent several days in the hospital.
During his stay, a younger child with the same diagnosis was in the room with him.
Wildhaber little boy was “horribly sick” and had been on dialysis for some time. She said she will never forget the mother of the child being excited, because the advancement of his disease moved him up on the transplant list.
“Last year when we started Zac’s Challenge there were 113,000 people on the blood organ transplant list. Now there are almost 118,000,” Wildhaber said.
That number does not include those who need tissues, valves or other non-organ transplants.
Of those, 40,000 are pediatric patients, under the age of 14.
Every 13 minutes another name is added and every 17 minutes, someone waiting for a transplant passes away, Wildhaber said.
The untold story, she said, is the donor family story.
“I think people understand organ donation will benefit someone who is in need of an organ,” she said. “But I don’t think people understand how much comfort the donor family receives from this.”
Wildhaber said that some people may consider her son a hero.
“But they’re heroes for us,” she said. “They allowed something positive to come from this horrific experience. They’ve given us something to hold on to.”
Zac’s Challenge has offered an avenue for the family to channel their energy toward, she said.
“There’s something that continues to be positive on a daily basis,” she added.
As far as what’s next, Zac’s Challenge has a new goal of registering 2,000 people to become organ donors.
“We will keep going. That was never a question,” Wildhaber said.
Last September Zac’s Challenge hosted a “Green Out” at a varsity football game in Union.
Union High School and the football team raised a total of $4,864.50 that was donated to Mid-America Transplant Services.
The funds will be used to help build housing near the transplant hospital.
Zac’s Challenge plans to hold the event again this year, as well as expand it to other sports and schools. More details will be announced at a later date.
To Sign Up
Adults 18 and older can sign up for the list. Those 16 to 18 can sign up if they provide their parents’ contact information. Parents can add their children to the list.
If people want their name to count toward Zac’s Challenge, they can send enrollment forms to the Wildhabers at Zac’s Challenge, in care of Troy and Amy Wildhaber, 6785 Highway 185, Beaufort, MO 63013. They also can specify online that Zac’s Challenge is their reason for registering.
Enrollment forms and other resources can be found at zacschallenge.com.
To request an education session or tailored speech, people may email firstname.lastname@example.org