KATHLEEN LAVEY | Lansing State Journal
When John Edmond talks about his daughter, he talks about her zest for life, her independent streak, the joy she took in her family, friends and classmates.
"Amaia was the type of person who was always trying to help someone," he said. "She just had the biggest heart."
Amaia died July 23 after she was shot during a home invasion at her mother and stepfather's Lansing residence; the incident remains under investigation.
But Amaia's legacy goes far beyond the family and friends who loved her and miss her still.
Her heart now beats inside the body of another 7-year-old whose life was saved by her donation.
A 9-year-old breathes fresh air into lungs received from Amaia.
Two adults each got a kidney from her; another adult received her liver.
"You are the living angel for me, the angel that has answered my prayers," one of the kidney recipients wrote in a letter to John Edmond. "Her energy and strength will continue to live on."
Edmond said making the decision to donate Amaia's organs was not a difficult one for him.
"It was something that felt natural," he said. "I wasn't going to let her die in vain."
But organ donation is not Amaia's only legacy. Her death has spurred her father toward increased community involvement.
Edmond, 33, works at General Motors Co.'s Delta plant, but previously has worked in kids' programs for Lansing's Parks and Recreation Department and as a counselor at Highfields.
He and his wife, Sonya, live in a pleasant ranch house in a Delhi Township subdivision with their 2-year-old son, Julian. Amaia had her own room there, complete with dolls, stuffed animals and a Disney "The Princess and the Frog" blanket. John Edmond shared custody of Amaia with her mother, who lived on Custer Street in Lansing with her husband and two sons.
Edmond says Amaia was a steadying influence on his life from the moment she was born on May 31, 2003.
"I believe God put her in my life to give me some direction and some substance," he said.
Edmond continues to volunteer at Lansing's Wexford Elementary School, a public Montessori school where she would have been in second grade. He shared Amaia's clothes and shoes earlier this school year, donating them to her school friends.
"I had one little girl come up to me and say, 'Look, I've got Amaia's pants on!' " he said.
He recruited Black Men Inc. of Greater Lansing to help him rally parents to support kids on the first day of school this year. The message: Parents, especially dads, must be involved in their kids' educations.
Wexford Principal Nabila Boctor recalled Amaia as a helpful, happy child who greeted her enthusiastically every day.
She said Edmond is a welcome volunteer at Wexford.
"He gives them encouragement, tells them to listen to the teacher," she said. "He helps them during lunchtime, just to be around if somebody is having a problem and they want to talk to him."
Talking To Teens
Edmond also has been working with Lansing police Capt. Ray Hall to bring home to teenagers the importance of reporting criminal activity. He's speaking on the topic this week at Sexton High School, his alma mater.
"What a commendable thing for him to do," Lansing police spokesman Lt. Noel Garcia said. "It would be so easy for him to just go on with his life, but he used this as an opportunity to educate and hopefully help our young people."
Edmond hopes someday to be able to meet the five people whose lives were saved by Amaia's organs.
Tim Makinen, spokesman for Gift of Life Michigan, said the donation serves as an example to others.
"This was a tragedy for the family, but in their time of grief they were able to look beyond themselves to help others," he said. "Amaia's spirit and generosity now live on."
ABOUT THE EDMOND CASE
• Amaia Edmond died July 23. She was shot the evening before when three men broke into her mother and stepfather's Custer Street home. No one has been charged in connection with the incident. It remains under investigation.
• Anyone with information about it should call CrimeStoppers at 483-STOP. Tips also can be sent anonymously by text message. Send the message to 847411, begin the message with "LPD517" and type the message.
To learn more about organ donation, go to www.giftoflifemichigan.org
BY THE NUMBERS
289 Organ donors in Michigan last year
5 People Amaia Edmond's organs saved
8 Maximum number of lives one donor can save
50 People a tissue donor can help