‘We probably changed the world’

Taryn Svenson (far left) and Terry Switenky (far right) present Toby and Bernie Boulet a humanitarian award in honour of their son Logan Boulet, an organ donor and Humboldt Broncos defenceman killed in April’s tragic bus crash. -- Photo courtesy Taryn Svenson.

In the hours following the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Broncos defenceman Logan Boulet lay in a hospital bed, on life support.

Just weeks before the crash that killed 16 and injured 13 more, Boulet, on his 21st birthday, signed an organ donor card. He had made it known to his family that, in the case of a tragic accident, donating his organs was his wish.

Boulet’s surgery was successful, and his healthy organs were transplanted to six people, who will live on thanks to his selflessness.

Boulet, who was born in Lethbridge, died on Saturday, April 7, 2018 from injuries sustained in the bus crash.

Thursday, Boulet’s choice, which inspired over 100,000 people to become organ donors themselves, was honoured during a ceremony in Humboldt.

The event was part of the Angel’s Legacy Project, put on by the Dawne Switenky Memorial Foundation.

The foundation was set up in the honour of Dawne Switenky, who died while on the organ transplant list, waiting for a new lung. Switenky, a donor herself, was able to give her eyes upon her death.

Dawne’s husband Terry said he was inspired to set up the Angel’s Legacy Project and the foundation by his wife, and to make sure her story, as well as that of others waiting for organ donations, can be told.

“I would be less of a human being if I didn’t offer all of the love and compassion that was shown by her, and the understanding of what it takes to die in dignity,” he said.

“We will continue to do this because there are many of those people out there. They lived a life worse than being on death row because they still have hope.”

Terry Switanky, along with Angel’s Legacy Project marketing and communications coordinator and fellow Prince Albert resident Taryn Svenson, presented the Humanitarian of the Year award to Logan Boulet, posthumously. His parents accepted the award on his behalf.

Angel’s Legacy Project also announced that the award would be renamed the Logan Boulet Humanitarian of the Year Award.

“This award makes us feel very proud,” Logan’s father Toby Boulet said Tuesday, according to the Calgary Herald.

“For someone to think that Logan did something special enough to be presented with an award like this is very special. We have tremendous comfort knowing that Logan’s organs saved lives and helped six people. It’s good to know that if he has to be gone that he continues to make a difference in the lives of others by saving others.”

The ceremony, which also included an award given to the Broncos in memory of Boulet, included people sharing stories about giving or receiving organ donations. It featured video presentations by celebrities and real people with their own personal stories.

The event was capped by a flypast by the Snowbirds, who drew a heart over Humboldt.

“We probably changed the world,” Terry Switenky said following the ceremony.

“We gave notoriety to the importance of being an organ donor, and we also gave notice that people who register to be organ donors should be proud and tell the world they are proud of being an organ donor.”

About 150 people attended Thursday afternoon’s event, held at the Bella Vista Inn in Humboldt. And while it was born out of sadness, the ceremony was also a celebration.

“It was beautiful,” said Switenky.

“There was a variety of emotions,” Svenson said.

“There was a lot of tears, but for the first time, we had the lung association, the kidney and the liver association together for the same cause. There was a lot of happiness that we were binging as a community for the same cause. They’re all trying to accomplish the same thing.”

“The easiest way to describe it is what happened today became our message,” Switenky said.

“It’s as simple as that. The people who showed up, they’ve got big hearts and open minds, and they will continue to broadcast this message within their own families and within their own communities.”

Switenky and Svenson hope the momentum that was gained Thursday continues, and more people will consider becoming an organ donor.

“One hundred per cent, we’re encouraging people to have the conversation with their families and be sure they know their wishes so there’s no question if an unfortunate tragedy were to come,” Svenson said.

“It would already be an understood decision.”

To that end, through SGI the foundation is selling plate frames, which say “organ donors are a real angel”. Angel’s Legacy project also has non-veto organ donor cards that include your signature, your witness’ signature and the contact reference for your medical records because the timing in a potential organ donor situation is critical.

“Logan’s decision to become an organ donor affected not only Canada but the world,” Switenky said.

“We want to give him credit for being an upstanding young fellow who was able to make that decision at an early age, 21 years old. We want people to be proud of the fact that there are young leaders in this country like that, and there are many of them. All we have to do is ask them to step up to the plate.”