With a kind heart, fierce mind and brave spirit, Connor Walsh dreamed of a career in the criminal justice field. He loved helping others, whether it was at school and community outreach events, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout or working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) when he was 16 years old.
It was as an EMT when Connor felt the impact of saving someone’s life. One day, not long after signing up to be an eye, organ and tissue donor, Connor told his dad, “When I owe the future no more, it’s another way for me to pay it forward.”
Sadly, at just 23 years old, Connor passed away unexpectedly. But his brave spirit carried on as he generously donated his corneas, heart valves, veins, tissues, ligaments, tendons and bones, changing the future for dozens of people in need.
It is particularly comforting to Connor’s parents, Bill and Alice, that he was able to give the gift of sight. Connor’s two cousins suffered from Leber congenital amaurosis, a disease that left them blind at birth, and he always expressed compassion for them.
“Our admiration for Connor’s gifts is insurmountable,” Bill said. “Through his passing, we find comfort knowing that on the worst day of our lives he was able to give sight to two other people in the world.”
Alice and Bill were proud of their son’s dedication to public service. Despite their grief, they swiftly moved to continue his legacy of giving by starting a scholarship program at his grammar school, and they helped Don Bosco Preparatory High School incorporate an annual eye, organ and tissue donation seminar into the driver education program this spring.
Even Connor’s superiors at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford—where he worked as a security officer—wanted to pay tribute to his life because they thought so highly of him. Alice and Bill teamed up with Eversight and the NJ Sharing Network in August to hand out thousands of donation wristbands at a sold-out Coldplay concert. A photo of Connor with a message celebrating his donation greeted every person who attended.
As Connor’s presence hovered over the night, Alice had one goal: inform, inspire, influence.
“We are all born to do great things; how can we make that difference?” Alice said. “And that’s how I deal with the loss and the tragedy I feel. It’s turning a negative into a positive, and Connor made that difference in the lives of others.”
Connor had tattoos on each of his inner arms. Alice was not crazy about them at first. Now she looks back and understands their significance. One tattoo read, “The day you are finally happy is the day that you are finally free.” The other was about faith: “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.”
“He strongly believed you’re here for a purpose,” Alice said. “You’re here to benefit and serve others. I think the gift he gave is a gift that’s everlasting.”
“Our admiration for Connor’s gifts is insurmountable,” said Bill Walsh, Connor’s dad. “Through his passing, we find comfort knowing that on the worst day of our lives he was able to give sight to two other people in the world.”