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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

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The gift of a lifetime

Senior Eileen Meara’s touchdown tribute to alumnus Jaydon Woodall
On+Friday%2C+a+night+full+of+celebration+kicked+off+in+a+flood+of+green+in+honor+of+former+2023+graduate+Jaydon+Woodall.+Athletics+director+Jeff+Taggart+took+the+night+as+a+moment+to+reflect+on+Woodall+and+the+impact+he+made.+%E2%80%9CThe+fact+that+we+have+that+option+to+bring+more+awareness+to+%5Borgan+donation%5D+and+how+we+can+save+somebody+elses+life+down+the+road%2C+to+the+idea+of+being+an+organ+donor+like+%5BWoodall%5D+is+worth+everything.+Coming+together+as+a+community+says+a+lot+about+how+much+he+means+to+us%2C%E2%80%9D+Taggart+said.
Lia Emry
On Friday, a night full of celebration kicked off in a flood of green in honor of former 2023 graduate Jaydon Woodall. Athletics director Jeff Taggart took the night as a moment to reflect on Woodall and the impact he made. “The fact that we have that option to bring more awareness to [organ donation] and how we can save somebody else’s life down the road, to the idea of being an organ donor like [Woodall] is worth everything. Coming together as a community says a lot about how much he means to us,” Taggart said.

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” This quote by Dr. Seuss has stuck with senior Eileen Meara as one of her favorite sayings. The 17-year-old was one of several hundred moved by former 2023 graduate Jaydon “JJ” Woodall, who tragically passed away this summer.

With Friday night lights coming to an end and senior night wrapping up, Woodall — who was a football player and wrestler — was honored in the last home football game of the season, with the crowd decked out in green to raise awareness for organ donation. Paying tribute to Woodall through donation awareness was easy for Meara.

“[Woodall] had just graduated from West. He was a football player and wrestled. He was very passionate and very good at both of his sports. When [Woodall] passed, he donated various organs, [including] parts of his heart, both kidneys, bones and tissue to Mid-America Transplant,” Meara said. “He was just so influential. He was such a powerful, determined and driven person. They had an announcement about [Woodall] at a previous [football] game, but I don’t think anybody was made aware that it was going to happen. For this game, I talked to PWest Superfan. I wanted to do a green theme and make it an honor for [Woodall], because he was an organ donor, and they were on board.”

The number “57” sits on the back of the cheerleaders bows as they watch the last football game unravel. Alumnus Jaydon Woodall was honored through a green-out representing organ donation. Senior Eileen Meara planned the night with administrators as she was friends with Woodall. “[Woodall] was so determined, put in the work and set his goals. He would finish what he started, [he was] completely driven. That has impacted the football team and the wrestling team,” Meara said. (Alli Vanvalkanburg)

After talking about the game’s theme with Superfan and discussing with various teachers how to make her idea come to life, Meara went to principal John McCabe to talk about the idea of honoring Woodall through a football game. McCabe agreed quickly and reached out to the to get the idea approved by the Parkway School Board.

“McCabe was thrilled by the idea, and the Parkway School Board approved of it because it’s a living memorial. I was so excited. I almost started to cry, I was so happy,” Meara said. “I got in contact with the family support coordinator Liz Harry from Mid-America Transplant. We contacted back and forth through a huge email chain and [worked] through the entire process.” 

Through working with Mid-America Transplant, who donated hundreds of green bracelets — which Woodall was often seen wearing, representing organ donors — engraved with ‘Donate Life’ on them, Woodall was honored. The significance of Woodall’s donation goes deeper, as his father was a transplant recipient after battling long-term effects of childhood cancer. 

“One thing I distinctly remember about [Woodall] was that he had that green bracelet on at all times, on and off the football field,” Meara said. “Because of that, the target of this game was to raise donations to put towards Mid-America Transplant in [Woodall’s] honor and legacy. Continuing that legacy for him and his family honors everything he’s done for us and everything we can give back as a community. I hoped to really get the message across because [Woodall] would give anything for anyone, and he taught me to do the same,” Meara said.

Athletic director Jeff Taggart recalls the game night as a great honoring of the joy Woodall brought to everybody around him.

“Because [Woodall] was seen as such an exceptional young man, the impact that he made with choosing to be an organ donor impacted me to save somebody else’s life by signing up to donate. Just being here for one year, I had the chance to get to know him; he had a million-dollar smile, [he was] just an electric kid. The fact that we’re able to still remember the positive impact he had even after he left us is something important. It makes you remember that our whole purpose of being around is just to be a good person, to do things for other people. [Woodall] exemplified that. It was a great evening to honor him and be with his family,” Taggart said.

Woodall’s impact reached many, wherever he went. Coaching Woodall through football for four years, head coach Jeff Duncan was often inspired by him. 

“​​He had such a kind heart and was super hard working. I can see the impact [the game] had on our team as well as the coaches. We talked before the game about the way that he played, the passion that he played with, and how we wanted to honor him and play in that same way. I think honoring Jaydon was something special for our team, community and school, and making people aware that they can make a difference by registering can also save the lives of others,” Duncan said.

As the game came to a close, around 200 bracelets and ‘Donate Life’ shirts were passed out. Roughly $900 was collected through cash and online donations.

“This game was to raise awareness [for organ donation] and how important it is to cherish your friends and loved ones. I’ve heard this a million times, but you really never know when your last time [with someone] is. It’s very important to embrace every moment and stop letting other stuff get in your way of being a good person and being who you are. People like [Woodall] are prime examples of being amazing, powerful and genuinely good people; those people are really hard to come by,” Meara said.

Decorated in blue, the letters “JJ” and the number “57” adorns the fence surrounding the football field. “JJ” was alumnus Jaydon Woodall’s nickname, and “57” was his number. (Lia Emry)
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Lia Emry, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? I'm not sure, but I love cats. Who is your hero? My mom. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Sushi.
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  • E

    Elle RotterOct 29, 2023 at 10:59 pm

    Lia this story brought me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing this story for students and alumni to see. I hope other students from the class of 2023 will get to see this.

    Reply
  • L

    lauren holcombOct 27, 2023 at 2:47 pm

    this is a beautiful article lia, it’s an incredible way for you and eileen to celebrate jaydon

    Reply
  • D

    Debra KlevensOct 27, 2023 at 5:40 am

    Great story, Lia! You you have very strong quotes. It really shows the impact one person can make. Jaydon was an amazing person. Eileen, I commend you on seeing that at taking action to honor his memory.

    Reply