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Yankton family celebrates daughters life with her organ recipients

Published: Sep. 5, 2021 at 9:37 PM CDT
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YANKTON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A South Dakota family is celebrating the life of their daughter who passed away nearly three years ago.

After Brooklyn Bender lost her life in a car accident her organs were donated to help save the lives of others. Now her family is meeting some of the people Brooklyn has had the biggest impact on.

“We appreciate that our daughter is still living on with them,” said Bradley Bender, Brooklyn’s dad.

“They’re letting us become part of their families so that we know that Brooklyn carries on,” said Rhonda Bender, Brooklyn’s mom.

Marcie Hanson’s daughter and Brooklyn were inseparable. Hanson was suffering liver issues and was initially told she had about 3 months to live.

But after Brooklyn’s accident, the Bender family did a direct donation for Hanson to receive Brooklyn’s liver.

“How do you put in words your life and say thank you, you could say thank you a million times over and it just wouldn’t be enough,” said Hanson.

Hanson has been able to see her kids and grandchildren grow up, thanks to the donation.

“I’m going to be a great-great-grandmother, which I would not have been able to even be a part of, there are just so many things in this life that I wouldn’t have been able to be a part of and I’m very thankful for that,” said Hanson.

At the celebration was the first time Brooklyn’s friends and family got to meet Clayton Just, who received Brooklyn’s heart.

“It’s a privilege for me to meet anybody because without Brooklyn I wouldn’t be here,” said Just.

Just was nervous meeting everyone for the first time, but he wanted to do it, so he could be a part of celebrating Brooklyn.

“It’s a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, I cried of course, but it’s good, I’m glad,” said Just.

The Bender family hopes everyone who was at the celebration and the organ recipients who couldn’t make it to continue to remain part of each other’s lives.

“We want to have a family reunion with all the recipients,” said Bradley. “I think it’s very important we stay together always because we know it made a big difference for their families and it definitely does with ours.”

The Bender family says having Brooklyn’s organs donated has helped them know she lives on and wants to encourage others to become donors as well.

More information on being an organ donor can be found by clicking here.

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