Courtney Sterling was an outgoing and friendly freshman at Lumberton High School, in Texas. The 15-year-old was active in her school’s color guard and played the flute in the band. Courtney loved the outdoors, especially the beach, boating and four-wheel riding in the mud with her friends. She never met a stranger. Her school mates remember her as the first person that talked to them on their first day of school, and made them feel safe and welcomed. Many of her friends would go to her for advice with their life problems. In addition to her friends, she adored her family and was very excited about being an aunt and was looking forward to her nephew, Tyson, being born.

In February 2014, Courtney was driving with her sister and mother when their car was hit by a speeding driver. The accident killed Courtney’s pregnant sister, Connely, and put her mother, Dawn, in the hospital for nearly two months. Courtney was also taken to the hospital, where she later passed away.

Amidst this great tragedy, Courtney’s father Michael made the decision to donate his daughter’s organs, later learning that Courtney had intended to register as an organ donor, as a celebration for her 16th birthday, in October of that year.

Through organ donation, Courtney saved five lives. Her parents have since had the opportunity to meet four of her recipients. Lisa Barker, who received Courtney’s liver, is a 2016 Donate Life Float Rider and will be traveling with Michael and Dawn to the Rose Parade to celebrate and share Courtney’s legacy.

Dawn Sterling is an active Volunteer Advocate with Southwest Transplant Alliance and coordinates Donate Life Texas registry tables in her hometown to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation and share her daughter’s inspiring story.