“She turned a tragic event into a triumph, and a continuing story of hope.”
In the fall of 2012 our son Ian was a freshman at the University of Michigan beginning his studies to become an engineer. Within a month of starting classes he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer and died just prior to his 18th birthday. My wife Michelle, and I felt we needed to continue Ian's dream and started a scholarship at the university in his name to help future engineers. This was the beginning of Michelle's story.
Through our work with the university, and to help with the grieving process we were introduced to a faculty member who had also lost a son at a young age. After meeting with him several times and sharing our stories with each other, we learned that his wife had been on kidney dialysis for 8 years and was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Michelle asked if she could be tested as a potential donor. Organ and tissue donation had been an important part of our life and our son Ian was able to give the gift of sight to two people through cornea transplants.
Through numerous tests to be matched as a kidney donor, Michelle learned that she had a brain tumor of her own which required surgery to be removed. Through the testing process Michelle also learned that she was a perfect match for our friend. After over a year long process of testing, along with some set backs, Michelle was able to donate a kidney and both her and our friend are doing physically well. During this process Michelle played a key role in fund raising to continue to build the scholarship that we had already started. Michelle also partnered with Gift of Life, and Eversight Michigan doing volunteer work to help promote awareness for organ and tissue donation.
Through her contacts with Gift of Life, and Eversight Michigan Michelle began to learn about how to start a non-profit organization. We had discussed expanding the scholarship program and thought this would be the way to do that. After what we had heard could take several years to accomplish, Michelle was able complete the paperwork and get it approved to start The Ian Clemens Foundation as a 501(c)3 non-profit within a matter of months. The mission of the foundation is to provide scholarship to future engineers, promote awareness for organ and tissue donation, and provide financial assistance to families battling a pediatric cancer diagnosis through partnerships with local pediatric cancer centers.
What started out as a horrible tragedy has become a mission of triumph and hope which continues on. Not only has Michelle talked the talk about organ donation, but she has also walked the walk by donating a kidney to a friend in need. Michelle is also now the President of The Ian Clemens Foundation which is still in it's first year and is already fulfilling it's three part mission.
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