A young athlete who lived to help others saves seven lives in his final act of kindness

Pocket Full of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield is the song Declin Ermer would belt out without warning any time of the day.  Coincidentally, the title of the song resembled the life he led and the impact he had on those fortunate to cross his path.

“He enjoyed the company of the elderly.  He talked with his friends’ parents at events even if to just say thank you for hosting. He was kind to those less fortunate. He accompanied co-workers home to ensure their safety. He volunteered to do the grubbier jobs [at the gym] knowing a co-worker preferred the front desk. He made TikTok’s with me and called me every Friday on his way to the gym just to say hi because he knew I missed him,” says Laura Townsend, Declin’s mother.

“I don’t know that he even realized the impact he had in every encounter he experienced.  Yet, we all benefited from his example.”

Declin was a loving son, brother, cousin, grandson, and “the monkey’s uncle” to his nieces and nephews, Laura says. She describes him as a dedicated teammate and a friend to so many, who lived his life with compassion, generosity, and unconditional love.

When he received his driver’s license for the first time, checking the box to be an organ/tissue donor just made sense to Declin because it was a way to help someone in need.

Declin was a Wheaton Warrenville South High School graduate and four-sport athlete, excelling in basketball, volleyball, soccer, and baseball. He attended the University of Montana in Missoula, where he aspired to become a physical therapist and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

In November 2022 shortly after his 22nd birthday, a tragic accident claimed Declin’s life. His decision to be a donor allowed him to perform one final act of kindness. Declin saved and enhanced the lives of at least seven people as an organ/tissue donor, donating tissues, his liver and kidneys to recipients waiting for life-saving miracles.

Declin’s family found solace in the donation, a reminder of the selflessness he lived by every day.

Laura reflects: Even though the family never openly talked about donation at home, they were fortunate to have honored Declin’s decision to be an organ/tissue donor.

“The impact your loved one can have is bigger than you realize,” she says. “The decision should be taken seriously… discuss [after-life plans] as a family, so that everyone is on the same page. In the time of an unfortunate tragedy, everyone knows exactly what your loved ones’ wishes are with no questions asked.”

“Declin embodied kindness and what it means to love others unconditionally—no matter who they are, where they came from, or what they’ve been through. He truly did, in his beautiful life, show people how loved they were and just exactly how we should love others,” says Declin’s classmate Emily.

Let Declin’s story inspire you. Learn more about the life-saving gift of organ donation and register your decision as an organ and tissue donor.

Video credit: Nadia Kathryn