Illinois Teens Can Now Register as Organ Donors

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New legislation allows teens to choose to give the gift of life – something a former Neuqua junior did for five people after his tragic death.

Earlier this month, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Drive for Life Act, allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to be organ donors.

A proponent for the act, Jill Zuleg, explains, “before this law was passed, you had to be 18 years old, or older, and so this allows more kids to be able to be part of the organ registration list.”

It’s a subject she knows about firsthand. In 2010, her 16-year-old son Kyle was fatally struck by a falling tree limb, forcing Jill and her husband into a difficult decision. Though they’d never spoken with Kyle about his wishes, they felt certain they knew the choice he’d make.

“Kyle was wearing his donate life bracelet a lot, and we had gone camping that weekend and he had left it on his desk, and when we got home from hospital it was sitting there,” said Jill. “And I just knew we had made the right decision and if he would have had the chance, he would have been one of those 16-year-olds that signed up to be an organ donor.”

With the passing of the Drive for Life Act, the donation wishes of 16 and 17 year-olds can now be made clear, though a parent or guardian does have the right to overturn their decision.

The Zulegs applaud the state’s support for the legislation, and attended the bill’s signing. They’re proud their son’s legacy, and that of so many others, will be a gift of hope and a new chance at life.

“Kyle’s story did not end when he passed away,” Jill said proudly. “His story is still being told and he continues to live on in others, and for that we are really proud of what he did; and what a gift that he gave at just being 16 years of age.

The Drive for Life Act was signed on what would have been Kyle’s 23rd birthday.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin, Christine Lena and Kim Pirc report.