Families meet for the first time nine years after gift of life

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WESTWOOD, Kan. -- An Overland Park man spent decades helping children, not knowing that one day a child's gift would save his life. That day was nine years ago, and on Thursday, the man met the child's parents for the first time.

Dan and Lisa Richardson came from Aurora, Illinois, to headquarters of the Midwest Transplant Network. The table they arranged held photos of their son, Dylan. In 2007, the boy with the great grin was declared brain dead after a car crash. The Richardsons were approached about donating his organs.

"I actually got angry 'cause it's the last thing you think about when you're holding hope that your 7-year-old child is gonna pull through," said Dan Richardson.

But when they realized he wouldn't, they gave gifts of life. It's why Joe Van Dolah of Overland Park and his family were coming down the hall to meet the Richardsons on Thursday. When Van Dolah learned he would receive the kidneys of a boy from Illinois, he initially declined.

"No. Can't do it. I said I've worked with kids all my life. I can't do it," he recalled.

Van Dolah has helped countless children through Shriners and Scottish Rite. He thought a child should receive the kidneys.

"My son over there, the young doctor, said, 'Dad, it's karma'."

Nine years later, there was a meant-to-be moment. The families met for the first time. Since the transplant, they had exchanged some letters. Richardson only knew Van Dolah's first name and that he was a Shriner.

"Every year or so on a cold night or winter night, I'd go on the internet and see if I could find him," said Richardson.

This year, he did.

"Joe spent his adult life helping children, and my child, of all people, helps him in return. I just think that's so powerful and awesome. I just love it," he said.

Van Dolah has been able to continue his good deeds in good health.

"Wonderful. Wonderful. I got Dylan. How can you be any better?" he said.

After the meeting, he said, "We're family."

They are family who will always remember and honor Dylan.

Dylan's heart went to a girl in South Carolina and his liver to a young man from the United Arab Emirates. To find out how you can donate life, go to this link.