On September 24, 2004, Michael Kallal went to the gym before sharing a daily ritual of drinking coffee and reading the newspaper with his wife Patty. Shortly after Mike left for work, he was killed in a head-on car crash. Six months before Mike's accident, his family had discussed organ donation. Mike had said, "When I die they can take whatever they need because where I am going, I won't need them." Since Mike's death, the Kallal family has actively promoted the importance of organ and tissue donation. In 2008, they began an annual run/walk to fund a scholarship set up in Mike's memory.
Michael "Popeye" Kallal was a very optimistic person. He always saw the good in people and the glass of water as half full. The morning of September 24, 2004, began as usual for the Kallal family with Mike, 44, going to the gym for his early morning workout. When he returned home, he sat down with his wife Patty to enjoy their daily ritual of drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.
"For some reason, that morning when Mike walked out the door, I followed him," remembered Patty. "In hindsight I now know why. It was the last time I would see him alive. Shortly after Mike left for work, I heard several sirens. I do not know how to explain this, but somehow I knew Mike was involved." It wasn't long before Patty was notified that Mike had been killed in a head-on car crash.
"Of all the questions asked of me that morning, one question I vividly remember was: 'Would I consent to Mike becoming an organ/tissue donor?'," Patty recalled. "Six months before Mike's accident, our family had discussed the topic. Our children remember their Dad's reply: 'When I die they can take whatever they need because where I am going, I won't need them.'"
Since Mike's death, the Kallal family has actively promoted the importance of organ and tissue donation. In 2008, they began the annual Spring Organ/Tissue Donation Awareness 5k Run/2 Mile Walk. Proceeds from the event are currently donated to Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis, Mo. and to Jersey Community Hospital Emergency Room expansion project. The first three years of the event proceeds were used to fund a scholarship in Mike's name at Jersey Community High School for graduating seniors attending higher education as well as Mid-America Transplant Services.
"People have asked us how we have survived this tragedy," said Patty. "Sharing our story and promoting organ and tissue donation is the answer. We were dealt a hand of cards, and we could either let those cards lie or pick them up and play them. We chose to play them. We know that Mike's corneas have given two individuals the gift of sight. It is a great comfort to know that Mike continues to live on, and our hope as a family is that these two people see life as Mike did: full of laughter and optimism."