NASCAR driver to honor LHS graduate who died in wreck and donated organs

Columbus State University student and Loganville High School graduate Ethan Rutledge died in a tragic car accident in 2014, but before he died he had made the choice to be an organ donor. As a result, his decision gave life and hope to others, including a man who received Ethan’s heart after waiting nearly six months for a heart transplant.

NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Joey Gase made the decision to do the same when he lost his mother suddenly in 2011, donating her organs and ultimately touching the lives of 66 people in desperate need of organs. Since then, Gase has become as passionate about organ donation as he is about his racing and, in 2015, he received NASCAR’s inaugural COMCAST Community Outreach Award for his work supporting organ, eye and tissue donation and donor families.

These two lives will come together in support of organ donation on Feb. 22, 2018 when Gase reveals his No. 35 Sparks Energy car in Loganville, Ga. The LifeLink and Donate Georgia No. 35 car with Handprints of Hope that Gase will be driving in the 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series will have Ethan’s on the back panel of the car.

In a joint press release from the Lifelink Foundation and the City of Loganville, it was noted that “Atlanta Motor Speedway will soon fill its 110,000 permanent seats with motorsport fans.  Meanwhile, over 115,000 men, women and children across the county are waiting for the gift of life through transplantation; over 5,300 wait in Georgia. For the upcoming Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gase will race the LifeLink® and Donate Life Georgia No. 35 car in honor of his mother and others touched by donation and transplantation, like Ethan Rutledge,” the Lifelink Foundation wrote, going on to say  that Ethan was humble, never met a stranger and made a positive impact on many throughout his life. “Ethan made the decision, before his death, to register as an organ donor, and LifeLink worked with his family to honor his wishes. Ethan’s picture will be placed on the back panel of the No. 35 car as a tribute to his legacy for those whose lives were forever changed by his decision to donate life, such as Eddie Cannon. After suffering from non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, Eddie waited nearly six months for a heart transplant; a chance that became reality when he received Ethan’s heart. Two families, one heart, one strong bond forever.”

Robbie Schwartz, spokesperson for the City of Loganville, said the NASCAR driver will be visiting Loganville on Thursday, Feb. 22, to unveil the car and allow registered donors, recipients and those from donor families for a Handprints of Hope event. They will be invited to sign and make handprints on Gases’ No. 35 car during a special event called “Handprints of Hope.” The personal tributes to organ donors, transplant recipients, those waiting for a transplant and healthcare professionals will ride with Gase on the track during his race as an inspiration for fans about the power of donation.

“This is not only an unique opportunity to welcome NASCAR driver Joey Gase to our great city, but this is also a great way to honor the memory of one of our residents. We are proud to do our part in helping promote organ donation and in doing so, celebrating the life of Ethan Rutledge,” said Kristy Peters, Events and Marketing Director for the City of Loganville.

WHAT:  Handprints of Hope: 

Special appearance by NASCAR driver Joey Gase and LifeLink/Donate Life Georgia  No. 35 car

WHERE: Loganville City Hall

4303 Lawrenceville Road, Loganville, GA 30052

WHEN:   Thursday, February 22, 2018, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

WHY:      Meet and greet with NASCAR driver and Donate Life advocate, Joey Gase

Unveil LifeLink and Donate Life Georgia #35 car with Handprints of Hope

Honor organ and tissue donors including fallen Officer Jody Smith

WHO:      Interviews available with Joey Gase, NASCAR driver and Community Champion Award winner,

Donor families, transplant patients, recipients and Donate Life advocates

About LifeLink of Georgia

LifeLink of Georgia is a non-profit community service organization dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissues for transplantation. Learn more by visiting Connect with us socially on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About Donate Life Georgia
Donate Life Georgia (DLG) is a statewide alliance formed to educate the public about organ, tissue and eye donation. DLG is one of 50 non-profit local coalitions affiliated with Donate Life America and works to spread a unified message to Americans about the importance of organ, tissue and eye donation.

About Sparks Energy, Inc.: Sparks Energy, Inc. was founded in 2007 to address a growing need by both Investor Owned Utilities and Electric Co-ops for a quality workforce to perform storm response and energy restoration services. The Sparks Energy, Inc. team has over 35 years of experience in utility construction and management. Sparks is a committed leader in Energy Restoration Management. Our crews are qualified for overhead/underground distribution, transmission, substation and ROW operations. We are composed of both union and non-union crews. Our crews remain non-associated with mutual aid giving us the ability to move throughout the U.S. without having to request RMAG releases.

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