Even as a young child, Chris loved life and was always joking around. He grew up collecting Hot Wheels, he played softball and football, and loved fast cars and fishing. Chris’ senior year at Belton High School was filled with Future Farmers of America (FFA), hunter safety, automotive and wood-working classes. He dreamed of joining the United States Air Force after graduation and one day becoming a firefighter.
Chris always wanted to help others, if he could, and saving lives is what he dreamed of doing. Little did his family know that at the age of 17 Chris would have his chance to save the lives of complete strangers.
The morning of October 15, 2004, Chris was in a horrible car accident. For three days, his family waited in the ICU and continued to search for hope, holding on to any chance that he would survive his injuries. His mother, Nanette Pace, came to the realization (on the third day) that her son would not recover. Knowing Chris’ dream of helping others, Nanette knew in her heart that Chris would want to be a donor. If Chris could not help people during his life, his family would fulfill his wishes in his death. That decision set in motion a 24-hour process that was both tragic and uplifting – a process filled with incredible pain… and yet a glimmer of peace and hope.
Chris went on to save several lives by donating his kidneys, liver, heart valves and corneas. In April of 2008, his family had the honor of meeting the liver recipient who is a “wonderful and loving man,”said Chris’ mother. She was so happy to meet him and knows in her heart that “Chris is indeed a part of all the recipients and continuing to help them.”
Nanette still finds it hard to believe they have been without Chris for 10 years, but has felt “very comforted knowing that life has truly come full circle. It seems like just yesterday I held him in my arms, watched him take his first steps, and grow into a wonderful young man!” Chris’ love of life and the need to make others smile is her inspiration to talk about donation, educate the community and help other donor families as they begin their own journey. “Chris taught me throughout our journey that I CAN find my smile again and it’s ok; and that through our tears, we heal and are able to move forward. The legacy that Chris left behind has given us comfort in knowing that part of him and his memory will live on. What a wonderful decision we made that day!”