SIOUX CITY - Over a hundred family and friends of Ryan Blanchard released balloons in his honor Saturday, sending them aloft in the breeze blowing over the Big Sioux River.
Balloons of all colors rose into the sky: blues, reds, purples and even orange.
Becky Seitzinger, the late teen's mother, had her eyes on the lime green balloons her 13-year-old son, Sammy, let float into the sky.
Those balloons, she said, represented the four people Ryan saved through organ donation.
One received the 16-year-old heart, which his mother donated after Ryan died from a gunshot wound on Aug. 12, 2008. A little girl has Blanchard's liver, she said, while two others each received one of his kidneys.
"Now, they're healthy. They're doing good," Seitzinger said, speaking of the younger recipients. "They'll have a chance to grow up and have kids of their own and have grandkids, hopefully."
She said knowing that, and the impact Ryan had on so many people, has given her the strength to get through the years after her son's death.
"It's been something that makes me proud. It gives me hope," Seitzinger said. "It gives me strength in knowing that Ryan will live on and he has blessed the lives of so many people and their families by being able to keep their loved ones."
Now, she wants to help others.
The party at Riverside Park in Ryan's honor included the typical trappings of such a celebration, but also a picnic table covered in information about how to sign up to be an organ donor.
Mary Ann O'Dell, of the Iowa Donor Network, said one organ donor can save the lives of eight people. Tissue donors can help at least 50 to 60 people.
Many of the 1.4 million Iowans who registered to donate their organs likely did so when they got their driver's license. Although this is noted on the license, O'Dell said many families are surprised. Some don't honor the request.
"They only way to know for sure is, you need to communicate your wishes to your family before you die," said O'Dell, who was at Ryan's party.
Sammy Seitzinger, green balloons in hand, said he wants to follow his fun-loving older brother's example of helping others.
"It' means a lot to me," the eighth-grader said. "It makes me want to be an organ donor."