CUYAHOGA FALLS — In the aftermath of personal tragedy, the Ehrbar family of Granger Township has united with friends and supporters to remember two teenagers who, through their deaths, gave life to others.
Highland Local School District students Andrew, 13, and Erin Ehrbar, 16, succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident. At about 7:15 a.m. April 28, just before the start of the school day, Erin pulled out of her driveway on Wilbur Road when a 1973 Ford Mustang crashed into the driver’s side of her 2002 Pontiac Sunfire.
Erin died at the scene, and Andrew, who was riding in the passenger seat, was taken to Cleveland Metro-Health Medical Center, where he died the following day.
During those terrible hours immediately following the accident, their mother, Laura Ehrbar DePiero, made the decision to donate her children’s organs.
DePiero said she had discussed organ donation with her daughter, and Erin became an official donor by listing it on her driver’s license. The act of organ donation, she said, represented her children’s natures to give back.
“I almost felt a little selfish. … It gave us another 24 hours to be with Andrew.… You have the opportunity to give back to this world, and they aren’t going to have that chance anymore and I (needed) to make this decision for them.”
Nonetheless, the process was difficult.
“You have to stay out of your head … I had to stay with my heart,” she added, saying she could not let herself think about the surgery or procedure involved.
Erin donated tissue and corneas, and Andrew gave his heart, kidneys, pancreas and liver, saving three lives.
“We find it pretty amazing,” DePiero said. Since then, their contribution has created a ripple effect, she said.
The Ehrbar family is leading a team, the Drewin Crew— a combination of Andrew’s and Erin’s names — in the annual LifeBanc Gift of Life Walk and Run at Blossom Music Center today.
LifeBanc is a nonprofit “organ and tissue recovery organization for Northeast Ohio” that educates the public about organ donation.
“We have over 200 people on our team alone. It’s a lot of family kids from Highland High School and Highland Middle School,” DePiero said.
“This is something we want to do to keep Andrew and Erin’s legacy alive,” she said. The Drewin Crew has raised more than $10,000 for LifeBanc, and may raise more by the end of the walk today.
Friday would have been Andrew’s 14th birthday, she said, which made participating in today’s event that much more meaningful.
Hadie Bartholomew, media and community affairs coordinator for LifeBanc, reaffirmed DePiero’s view that the need for organ donors is great. More than 1,800 in Northeast Ohio alone need an organ transplant, and more than 3,000 people in Ohio and more than 108,000 nationwide require transplants, she said.
Medina Township resident Holly Mulkerin knows first-hand how organ donations change lives. Eighteen months ago, she became a heart recipient after spending 2½ years on a waiting list.
“It is the most amazing gift anyone could give to another person,” Mulkerin said, adding she was “days away from dying” when she received an 18-year-old girl’s heart.
Now she and Brunswick resident Frank Bianchi are leading the Rowdy Heart Recipients team during the LifeBanc Walk and Run. Six heart recipients will be walking on their team.
“The walk, it’s not only celebrating the gift that I have been given but celebrating the people who have donated. They need to be celebrated for their unselfishness. It’s something to be very proud about,” Mulkerin said.
To donate to LifeBanc, go to www.lifebanc.org.
Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at (330) 721-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.