CHEERS to those who make the generous decision to become an organ donor.

Organ donors are literally the gift of life, and there usually are never enough.

The region was greatly saddened this past week when we learned of the tragedy that claimed the life of Dalton R. Criss.

Criss, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Peru High School and a former standout football player and wrestler for the Indians, died a day after an accident on Route 3 in the Town of Saranac on Monday, Aug. 19.

His mother, Barbara Criss, was in the vehicle her son was driving, and she was seriously injured and remains in the hospital.

News of the accident spread throughout the North Country, prompting tears and powerful emotions.

Dalton's father, Dr. Dexter L. Criss, is a chemistry professor at SUNY Plattsburgh and the artistic director for the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir.

The Criss family is known by many, and they are seen as wonderful, caring, loving people who give to their community wholeheartedly.

Dalton's loss and Barbara's injuries hit many very hard.

It was little surprise when we learned that Dalton had signed up to be an organ donor, and his family saw to it that his organs would be recovered and delivered to needy recipients.

That's the kind of person Dalton was, we are told, always thinking of others and what he could do to help.

His decision to be an organ donor was an extremely important one.

At any given moment, more than 113,000 people are waiting to receive an organ in this country, according to published reports.

One person is added to the waiting list every 12 minutes.

These people desperately need hearts, kidneys, livers and many other organs in order to survive and lead a productive life.

But sadly, more than 6,500 people a year or about 20 per day, die before they can get the organ they need.

We simply do not have enough organ donors, and as a result, there are far more people in need of an organ than there are donors.

To become an organ donor is quite simple. Primarily, you can fill out a form when you get your driver's license indicating you are willing to donate your organs upon death, or you can register with your state's Organ Donor Registry.

At the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., hospital officials have established what they call an "Honor Walk," when a life-support patient is about to become a donor.

The patient is wheeled through the hospital hallways on the way to the operating room, and family, friends and hospital staff line the hallways to pay tribute to the donor and their family.

In Dalton's case, the Honor Walk was a monumental experience.

The hospital hallways were not only 500-strong with family, friends and staff, the corridors were filled with the sweet sounds of the Gospel Choir paying homage to the wonderful young man who was about to save lives in his own death.

As many as eight lives can be saved by one organ donor, prompting people to label the donor a hero.

In his death, Dalton Criss will no doubt save lives, which is most certainly a heroic gesture.  

So Cheers to the hospital staff for creating such a loving and appropriate tribute for organ donors and their families, and cheers to Dalton Criss and his family for their bravery and generosity.

We wish there were no need for organ donors, and we certainly wish there were no situations like Dalton's where it becomes possible for organs to be donated, but we are comforted to know that there are people like Dalton and his family in our world.

May he rest in peace.

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