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'This is what she believed in': Newark teen donates organs to help others after fatal car crash

Jenae McNichols was 16 years old when she lost her life.

NEWARK, Ohio — Tom and Lisa McNichol’s daughter is not physically with them anymore, but her spirit is.

“For me, it's almost like she's shining down on us; this is like the prom and graduation she didn't get,” says Lisa.

Their daughter Jenae was selected as Ohio’s representative in this year's Lifeline of Ohio Rose Bowl Parade Float. The goal of the float is to encourage others to think about becoming an organ donor.

“She wanted to help others and this way she was able to do that,” Tom said.

Jenae was just 16 years old when she lost her life in a single-car crash a mile from her Newark home.

Her parents said she over-corrected and struck a tree on Memorial Day in 2013.

“It's devastating to lose a 16-year-old but knowing she helped someone out that’s what is important,” Tom said.

Jenae’s death happened a month after she received her driver’s license.

Her parents say it was during health class that she learned about organ donation and it was on her bucket list to become an organ donor when she got her license.

“She's the one who told us when she got her driver’s license that I want to be an organ donor,” Lisa said.

On Friday night, the family saw for the first time, the floragraph of her daughter that was done by a volunteer in California that will eventually be on the Rose Bowl parade float.

Credit: Jessica Petersen

Jenae’s parents will get to fill in her eyebrows and the background before the artwork goes back to California.

The national waiting list for organ transplants is rising at an alarming rate, with more than 105,000 individuals currently on the list as of November 2021, according to Lifeline of Ohio. 

Approximately 700 people in central Ohio are waiting for an organ transplant, and hundreds more await tissue and corneal transplants, according to the organization.

In central and southeastern Ohio, 446 lives were saved in 2020 through organ donation and transplantation.

This was more than a 16% increase from 2019.

Click here for more information on Lifeline of Ohio.

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