Thomas Franklin Walls was a healthy, smart, funny, athletic and loving young man who was getting ready to start his junior year in engineering at Purdue University. It was August 2007 when 20-year-old Thomas was stabbed in the neck at a party in Evansville, Ind. He later died of his wounds but was still able to carry out a decision he made at age 16 to be an organ donor, saving six lives. The number six was also Thomas' number as a hockey player for the Evansville Thunder, where he played for 12 years. His family says they have been lifted up from his senseless murder to embrace his generous spirit.
Thomas Franklin Walls was born in 1986 and became a healthy, smart, funny, handsome, athletic and loving young man. When Thomas turned 16, he applied for a driver's license and came upon a question about organ donation. He asked his mother, Lee Ann Shafer, who remembers explaining to him that healthy people who die suddenly can give their organs to other people who need them. Thomas checked "yes" and received the little red heart on his very first driver's license.
Four years later, he was beginning his junior year in engineering at Purdue University. On August 13, 2007, Thomas was stabbed in the neck by another young man at a party in Evansville, Ind. He later died of his wounds, but because of his earlier decision to donate, he was able to save the lives of six people. Among them were a young man in Northwestern Indiana, a 52-year-old woman in Kansas City, and another man in Southern Indiana.
During a special service in his honor at Purdue, Thomas' mother told the audience that "those six people were alive and thriving because of my son's decision to donate life." She asked the audience to consider helping others with the gift of life. Many of the college students who attended pulled out their driver's licenses and checked for the little red heart.
Thomas had played ice hockey for twelve years for the Evansville Thunder, and his uniform number was six. After his death, hundreds of people in the Evansville community mourned Thomas and attended his funeral. Many friends and family raised funds for a scholarship and a beautiful sculpture with a hockey theme, titled "Number Six." The 16- 1/2 foot wood sculpture hangs in the ice arena where Thomas once played. In dedicating this sculpture, Lee Ann noted the significance of the number six.
"Six people received Thomas' vital organs after his death, and I challenge everyone here to carry forward his spirit of generosity and love for others by becoming an organ donor," she told the crowd. Thomas' family has been lifted up from his senseless murder to embrace his generous spirit in helping others enjoy the promise of life.