A West Valley High School yearbook photo of Fritz Weresch

Many of us begin the new year resolved to make changes to improve our lives and help others. We might vow to eat better, get more exercise, spend more time with our kids and volunteer to help neighbors in need.

These are all wonderful goals. But I’d like to suggest another resolution that can literally save lives: Please register to be an organ donor, like West Valley High School senior Fritz Weresch did.

Fritz’s impact and legacy is still on my mind. This impressive young man died at age 18 of natural causes, and as the father of three children myself, my heart aches on behalf of his parents, Eileen and Wes.

Fritz was described as “compassionate” and a “free spirit” by those who knew and loved him. He befriended those who needed a friend, traveled widely, connected to his German roots and spoke the language. He was a marching band tuba player extraordinaire, an eclectic fashionista and by all accounts, he had a wonderful life and deep connections with people during his short time on Earth.

When Fritz and a friend got their driver’s licenses, they registered to be organ donors. To Fritz, it made sense to help others with life-saving organs after death. To his family, the decision to register made perfect sense and it was in keeping with his character.

Fritz’s generosity of spirit was evident from the beautiful tributes and descriptions of him following his death in early December. On his final journey to the operating room to donate his organs, hundreds of people — many of them classmates — lined the hospital hallways during the “honor walk” for Fritz to say goodbye.

Before the honor walk began, his mother announced that the day was about Fritz’s decision to donate his organs.

In media interviews, Eileen spoke about Fritz with joy and happiness, even describing herself as lucky. “I feel lucky because I had Fritz. I feel lucky because he died in such a way that he could give his gift.”

Fritz was able to donate his lungs and heart, saving the lives of two people on the transplant waiting list. While recipients will be forever grateful, we know that their hopes and joys do not ease the family’s grief.

These gifts are precious and rare. More than 1,600 people in Washington are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, and more than 106,000 people are waiting nationwide. Every day, 22 people die on the waiting list.

Fritz’s family shared that he was known for his ability to facilitate meaningful connections between other people.

“Much has been made of Fritz’s decision to become an organ donor and the joy this brings,” his family said. “It was his gift to the world. Freely given. And his legacy lives on.”

Like Fritz, you can make a meaningful connection to others by registering to be an organ donor. Your generosity can save lives and leave a legacy, as Fritz did.

Yakima Herald-Republic published this commentary from LifeCenter Northwest CEO, Santokh Gill, on Jan. 13, 2023.