At 16-years-old, Cameron Sawinski went to the local North County branch office of the Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office with his mom, Kelly Ann Wagner, to get his driver license. Like all drivers getting or renewing their license, he was asked if he wanted to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. According to his mom, Kelly, Cameron said, “YES!” with excitement and joy. Cameron always put others first and he was thinking of others when he made the decision that day to be a registered donor.
A 2017 graduate of Dunedin High School, Cameron was an accomplished bagpiper with aspirations upon graduating to become a firefighter paramedic. Unfortunately, in May 2018 while riding his motorcycle to the funeral of a family member of a close friend, Cameron was struck and killed in a traffic accident. Shortly after hearing of her son’s tragic accident, Kelly received a call from a LifeLink representative. LifeLink is the local organ and tissue recovery organization serving west and southwest Florida. “It was like an angel's voice on the phone - just incredibly sympathetic, empathetic and professional. Donation was the furthest thing from my mind at the moment, but I knew Cameron had wanted to be a donor so, of course, I said ‘yes,’” shared Kelly. Cameron helped over 70 individuals through his tissue donation, which included bone, heart valves and corneas. Kelly, who works as a nurse in the cardiac catheterization lab at Largo Medical Center, also in Pinellas County, found healing when told that Cameron’s heart valves were donated to children.
Since Cameron’s death, Kelly strives to educate others about the importance of organ and tissue donation by sharing her experience. Her story struck a chord with Fran Haasch, of the Fran Haasch Law Group, who counts Kelly as a friend and former client. That is why, when the Fran Haasch Law Group, a personal injury firm, decided to celebrate its 20th year in business by donating $20,000 among eight Tampa Bay area nonprofits they chose LifeLink as the recipient of a $2,500 donation.
On August 9, 2021, Kelly, representatives of Fran Haasch Law Group and LifeLink representatives joined Pinellas County Tax Collector Carlos Thomas, and staff at the North County branch office, the same office Cameron had previously registered as a donor, to remember and honor Cameron’s selfless act. “I’m super supportive of (organ and tissue donation) and very proud and thankful knowing that my son is helping others live healthy and changed lives forever. Many people are affected by organ and tissue donations in a positive way. I feel it’s my obligation as Cameron’s mom to help make people more aware of how important it is,” Kelly said, as the firm's generous contribution was given to LifeLink. She hopes that Cameron’s story will inspire more teens to register as organ and tissue donors, particularly during this month’s back-to-school time.
Kelly made good use of her visit to the Tax Collector office as branch manager, Jackie Ware and her team also assisted Kelly to quickly and easily purchase a Donate Life specialty license plate presale voucher in honor of Cameron. Authorized by legislation last year, the Donate Life specialty license plate will benefit Donate Life Florida, the organization that manages Florida’s organ and tissue donor registry. 3,000 presale vouchers must be sold to Florida motor vehicle owners before plate production can actually begin. Vouchers can be purchased in-person at your local tax collector office or online from anywhere in the state at https://pay-hub.net/StLucie/DonateLife.
Fran Haasch Law Groups contribution to LifeLink, through LifeLink Legacy Fund, a separate but affiliated non-profit which supports the LifeLink Foundation mission, will provide patient financial assistance and benefit research initiatives benefiting organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Specifically, it will help pre-and post-transplant patients facing financial hardship and support Tampa General Hospital’s intern program that allows pre-med and medical students to work alongside a transplant research team.