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Friend School System and Live On Nebraska donate to children on the waiting list

June 6, 2022

Nestled in rural Nebraska, you’ll find the tight-knit community of Friend. Here, multiple stories and connections to donation and transplantation have inspired the community to give back. 

This spring, the act of giving back meant collecting items for children on the transplant waiting list right here in Nebraska.

The Exeter-Milligan-Friend Future Farmers of America student organization tackled this project head-on, raising money for toys and gift cards. This year, that included raising more than $2,500 in gift cards for families of those children awaiting transplant at Nebraska Medicine. 

“By working on this project our members get the opportunity to give to something bigger than themselves while honoring those in our community that have donated tissues and organs to others,” said FFA Adviser Amy Kohtz. “The members look forward to this project every year and have seen the impact that they have on families who are currently struggling with serious medical issues with their own loved ones.  This project is a wonderful opportunity for our members and community to support those in need.”

Exeter-Milligan-Friend students stand with Erika Arp (left) and Amy Kohtz (right) holding items they collected for children on the waiting list at Nebraska Medicine. 

Erika Arp is just one of the people in Friend connected to donation and transplantation and helped organize the fundraiser this year and in years past. 

Erika and her family tragically lost their son, Beckett, in 2015. He was a donor hero. Since then, the Arps have made it a point to give back to the community in his memory. This includes the fundraiser for children on the waiting list for transplant.

“We knew we wanted to honor Beckett after he passed and continue his legacy with his giving spirit,” Erika said. “After attending Live On Nebraska events and hearing the stories of families awaiting transplants and the amount of time they spent in the hospital, we knew we were called to help support those families. 

“Going through the heartache of losing a child is an unbearable thought. Our hearts break for those families who are waiting on the uncertainty of a lifesaving organ for their child. Giving to those families and bringing them joy to help ease their stress during such a difficult time is a way for us to pay it forward after all that was done for us after losing Beckett.”

This project inspired Live On Nebraska to give back to the children on the waiting list, too. Employees at Live On Nebraska donated toys as a part of one of their give-back events.

Live On Nebraska representatives then dropped off all of the items at Nebraska Medicine mid-May.

These donations will especially help families travelling from across the state, far away from their homes, said Nebraska Medicine Child Life Specialist Lisa Wallace-Spech.

“So many of our families travel far from their communities and extended family to receive transplants at Nebraska Medicine.” she said. “This makes a stressful situation even more challenging when their child requires a lifesaving transplant.

“During the several jam-packed days of meetings and tests, the children will benefit from bags of toys, crafts and activities provided by Live On Nebraska and the Friend School.”

Live On Nebraska’s Public Outreach Coordinator Emily Niebrugge drops off items with Nebraska Medicine’s Brittany Freeman.

Lisa added that each welcome package will be personalized and labeled to let them know the Friend School System and Live On Nebraska are here for them.

“Patients and families awaiting transplant or recently transplanted will find a nice pick me up or special treat when provided with donated gift cards during their hospitalization,” Lisa said. “Having Nebraska communities support these families makes them feel welcome and comforted during their child’s transplant process.”



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