Following a 6-month deployment, sergeant presents ‘Donate Life’ flag to victim’s parents
As he traveled the world, Army Staff Sgt. Eric Tofte planted an organ-donation flag on beaches and in deserts and public places in special honor of his friend killed in a bus accident. His friend, Cameron Chana, 22, selflessly donated his organs to save and improve the lives of dozens of others. Originally from Austin, Texas, Tofte took pictures of himself with the white flag embellished with the words “Donate Life” when he visited Kenya, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Thailand, and Ireland. Tofte said this was his way of letting Cameron’s parents and friends know Cameron has not, and never will be forgotten.
A member of the National Guard, Tofte presented the photos of him and the flag to Cameron’s parents Robert and Lori Chana once he completed his deployment. Robert and Lori had no idea about Eric’s plans until they saw the pictures of him and the flag. Tofte also described Cameron as “outgoing, loving, just the nicest person you’d ever meet.”
Cameron passed away in 2009 shortly after graduating from Eastern Illinois University. He and another passenger Justin Sleezer were killed when the double-decker bus they were riding struck an overpass on an Illinois highway. Both men were on the top level and facing backwards when the accident happened. About 30 students were returning from a boat trip to a lake just north of Chicago only three weeks after graduation. The two boys, Cameron and Eric met though the fraternity Sigma Pi and remained close friends ever since.
Lori Chana says it was a gift to know her son wanted his tissues and organ donated to help save the lives of others once she found out her son would not be returning home. With his gracious donation, Cameron helped save and enhance the lives of 30 other people, according to Gift of Hope, an organ and tissue donor network.
The Chana family still stays in contact with Nathan Dyer, a 58-year-old father and grandfather who just weeks from death received Cameron’s heart. Dyer and Lori even speak at events together about the importance behind being a registered donor.
Credit: Chicago Tribune