Wisconsin man bikes through Cape as tribute to daughter, organ donation

SOTHEAST MISSOURIAN | Marybeth Neiderkorn
"When I called him, weirdest phone call I~ve ever made in my life. I mean, think about it. My daughter~s dead, you~re wearing her heart. I remember, I said, 'Hello Jack, this is Abbey~s dad, Bill, how you doing?' Jack goes, 'I~m doing fine, Mr. Conner.' Then we didn~t say anything for five minutes, we just cried, the both of us, because it~s, like, what do you say?" Bill Conner says as he talks about one of the organ recipients he is going to meet up with along his journey on bike from Madison, Wisconsin, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for organ-donor awareness. Andrew J. Whitaker
On his journey to honor his daughter's memory and bring attention to the need for organ donation, Bill Conner is biking more than 2,600 miles from Madison, Wisconsin, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he hopes to land in mid-July.

"Obviously, it's a tragedy," Conner said. "This isn't about me. It's about honoring Abbey and organ donation. I'm carrying a torch for her because she can't."

Abigail "Abbey" Conner, 20, died in January at a resort in Mexico, her father said.

Jan. 7, Abbey and her brother were pulled from a pool, unconscious.

Her brother was able to make a full recovery and graduated from college a week ago Sunday, Bill Conner said, but Abbey was gone.

Bill Conner said someone likely spiked their drinks.

"They were at the resort less than two hours," he said.

"Donating her organs took a lot of the sting out of losing her," Conner said.

Conner will be meeting Jack, the recipient of Abbey's heart, on the next leg of his trip, he said.

He did not reach out to the recipients, he said, as the recipients' identities are sealed. Instead, the organ donation organization RTI Donor Services sent letters to each recipient detailing Bill Conner's plan to bike more than 2,600 miles in tribute. Continue reading


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