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The Gift of Life

West Springfield High student uses her teacher as an inspiration for a scholarship about organ donation.

Emily Miller didn't really know Adam Foote, but she is proud of his donation.

Miller, a senior at West Springfield High, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the Washington Regional Transplant Consortium as part of their Legacy of Life Scholarship program. She was one of eight area students who received scholarships after writing an essay persuading someone to be an organ and tissue donor.

Foote, a senior, was killed in a car accident in March when the car he was riding in struck another car at the intersection of Huntsman Boulevard and the Fairfax County Parkway. The tragedy shook the West Springfield senior class.

"I didn't know him personally, but if affects the whole school when you lose a member of the student body," said Miller, who will attend Princeton University this fall. "I think it's great, because it allows us to have a good influence on others after we're gone."

Miller was presented with the scholarship from representatives of WRTC at West Springfield's senior awards day on Wednesday, June 1.

"It’s something we hear from our donor families, that in times of sudden loss, it gives help to know someone else is alive today because of their loved ones," said Mark McCollough with the WRTC.

IN HER ESSAY, Miller expressed the impact her physics teacher, Ed Linz, had on her, an impact made more meaningful by the fact that Linz is himself an organ recipient.

"It's definitely one of my favorite classes, and I look forward to it every day. He's a very memorable, at times zany, teacher," said Miller. "I am one, on my license, but I definitely didn't know the affect it can have on someone's life until I met him."

Linz is the recipient of a heart transplant, and Miller said he talks about his transplant often in class.

"He knows from the other end of the spectrum that if there weren’t families like Adam’s out there, he wouldn’t be here," said McCollough.

McCollough said that since Foote's death, his parents Steven Foote and Jennifer Young, have made efforts to raise money for education about the importance of organ donation.

"Whatever it takes to get the word out to make people want to sign on to talk to their families about what should be done, should the situation arise," said Young. "It's amazing that we were able to think clearly enough at that moment to pass the word on to the nurses and the doctors."

Young said that in conjunction with WRTC, members of the senior class will be able to receive green bands with the words "Dona Vida," Latin for "Give Life," at graduation rehearsal this year.

She said her son decided to become an organ donor at the age of 7. His reasoning, she said, was simple.

"He said, 'Don't be silly mom, they can take whatever they want. What am I going to do with it?'"