Yankton Woman Gives the Gift of Life

YANKTON, S.D. – One family in Yankton wants to inspire others after an amazing gift came from their heartbreaking loss. February 14th is National Organ Donor Day which highlights heroes who give so much, often after they’re gone.

There’s nothing more special than friendship and after nine years Brooklyn Bender and Keeley Vogt were inseparable.

“We were like attached at the hip, best friends,” said Vogt.

Who wouldn’t be drawn to Brooklyn, the girl who radiated kindness.

“She would give anything she could to any of her friends if they ever needed anything, she would drop what she was doing and just be there in an instant,” said Brooklyn’s mom, Rhonda Bender.

So when Vogt’s mom began to have liver issues Brooklyn was there for her friend, but she always wished she could do more.

“Brooklyn told me like, ‘Honey if I could give your mom my liver I would,’” said Vogt.

On Christmas Eve Brooklyn was involved in a car accident and was fighting for her life. Around the same time Vogt’s mother’s health began to decline and she was hospitalized.

“Brooklyn started to get worse and then so did my mom. It was like, oh my gosh now what?” said Vogt.

Brooklyn was never able to spend Christmas with her loved ones and passed away on January 3rd, but in her passing she gave the most special gift of all.

“At that point we asked about organ donations because we knew it was something she was passionate about. That’s the way she was, she was a giver and a helper in any way she could be,” said Rhonda.

Vogt’s mom needed a new liver, so Brooklyn’s parents had her liver tested to see if Brooklyn’s liver was a match.

“I was super excited. I don’t think we believed it, I don’t think [Vogt] believed it for a second you know. It was one of those deals where wow, you know this is awesome. It’s actually happening,” said Rhonda.

In total, Brooklyn has contributed in saving four other lives. Along with her liver, Brooklyn gave her heart and two kidneys to those in need.
Rhonda says it helps, “Knowing she lives on and we have a piece of her close by.”

The Benders will always be proud of their daughter

“To me she’s a hero, that’s all it is. She’s simply a hero and that really helps us out quite a bit I think,” said Brooklyn’s father Brad.
Keeley and the Bender family are all organ donors themselves and hope to encourage others to follow in Brooklyn’s footsteps.

Brooklyn’s family says that if you want to be an organ donor it is important to inform your family and friends. Even if you are registered as a donor, a license may not be present at the time.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an organ or tissue donor you can visit this website for more information on registering – http://www.donatelifemidwest.org/sd/

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