On March 14, 2017, Sylvia and David Van Steyn suffered a horrific tragedy beyond what most could bare. Their 13-year-old son Michael accidently shot himself and the family’s life was changed forever.
Michael was left for a short time at home. He had started his homework, taken out the trash and played with the family dogs, and then went to look for his cell phone, which his parents had confiscated until he got his school work done. That’s when it happened, with homework on the table and a pizza in the oven. His older sister Alex pulled in the driveway just in time to hear the shot.
“I just thought something good has got to come from this horrible tragedy,” Sylvia said.
After three days of hanging on to hope that Michael might recover, the final word came that he was gone. That’s when Sylvia decided that they would donate his organs so that others might live.
So this young man, who was a devoted “momma’s boy” and loved football, left a living legacy behind. Five people were given the gift of life from his heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and one lung.
“He was my baby,” Sylvia said. “I couldn’t just let him die for no reason. I’ve met his recipients and when I talk to them, it’s like talking to Michael.”
Michael’s donations were handled through Donor Network West, and every year they honor donors by constructing their faces in flowers on a Rose Bowl Float.
On Jan. 1, in Pasadena, Calif., Michael’s face will be seen by thousands of people watching the Rose Bowl Parade. His parents and family will be on hand to watch as his float goes by.
Two insurance companies, Sullop and Zenith, chose Michael for the honor and worked as his sponsors to appear on a float.
Since the tragedy happened, the Van Steyn family created Michael’s Miracle Foundation to promote organ donation and gun safety. Every year they honor him by giving scholarships to local students. They also take Christmas gifts to sick children at Shriner’s and have donated to the Ronald McDonald House where they stayed while attending to Michael.
“It’s such a weird feeling,” Sylvia said. “Honoring his life like this … it’s just amazing.”