Giving the Gift of Life

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Sports, media and nature, it’s what 16-year-old Kyle Zuleg’s life was all about.

“He was a very free spirited child, love being outside, loved being in the open spaces” said Matt Zuleg, Kyle’s dad.

But in October of 2010, that love of nature turned to tragedy when a tree branch fell 40 feet on him during a family camping trip and took his life.

Despite the loss of their son, the Zulegs would not let Kyle be forgotten. In fact, he would become a hero to many others by means of organ donations.

“We just knew when they said Kyle was brain dead, we were like ‘oh my God, he can help and save other people and through our tragedy life and good things are going to come to others,’” explained Jill Zuleg, Kyle’s mom.

And it did- Kyle’s donation of seven organs was able to help five people live longer and fuller lives. And through “Kyle Shines On,” the foundation set up in his honor, the Zulegs give off Kyle’s warmth by donating “Forever in our Hearts” blankets to families working to give life by donating organs.

“He’s a hero, Kyle is a hero and there are so many heroes out there and he’s a hero in regards to what he provided to people,” added Matt.

But that’s not the only way Kyle lives on. Through the foundation, Kyle’s parents award scholarships to students in Districts 203 and 204 who are pursuing a media communications degree- just as Kyle may very well have done.

“He’d go outside and throw the football and run plays back and forth and be commentating himself and you could just tell he was a natural, he would have been a great little sports broadcaster,” said Jill.

To date they’ve given over $30,000 to students-the first being Kyle’s friend Jack Korte-currently living out Kyle’s dream in Vermont of being a sports broadcaster.

“I absolutely still think of Kyle, I wish that he could be here pursuing what I do right now because I know he would have made a dang good sports reporter anchor if that’s what he ended up wanting to do,” said Korte.

Small gestures to help others, that in turn, have helped themselves.

“That’s our way of making sure he’s not forgotten, and to take this horrible, horrible tragedy and turn it into something good for others and it’s been very healing for us to do that,” explained Jill.

“Kyle Shines On” holds fundraisers every other year. The next will be this November.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.