DOWNEY - Were it not for the selfless acts of two individuals - one, close to the subject; the other, a complete stranger - Dave Hollon's life would have been seriously jeopardized some seven years ago.Dave is the older brother of Mike Hollon, who was from 2004-2010 senior field representative for former and termed-out state assemblyman Hector de la Torre (D-50). The district covers the cities of Downey and Bellflower. Mike has since joined Assembly majority leader Charles Calderon's (D-58) team, also as senior field representative. The district covers the cities of Downey, Whittier, and the unincorporated neighborhood of East La Mirada. The year 2004 was to prove pivotal for the Hollons. Among their filial bonds was the fact that the brothers had attended the same high school, Pius X. (By the way, de la Torre went there, too, a year ahead of Mike). Mike, a 1990 BA graduate of the University of San Diego (major in international relations) and holder of a 1992 MA (also in international relations) from Cal State Fullerton, was by this time living in Alexandria, Virginia and working in Washington, D.C. as a senior associate at Waterman & Associates, a government relations firms, when he traveled to California to donate a kidney to brother Dave. Dave was struggling desperately with diabetes and the disease was reaching a critical stage. At the City Council ceremony on Tuesday (Dave's birthday), presenting the brothers with a proclamation naming the month of April as DMV/Donate Life Month, Dave, who occupied center stage and, choking with emotion, summed up the story's resolution: "I know [Mike] as the brother who saved my life. He is a hero [in my book]." Mike's rare visit back in California in 2004 was a defining one as well, but for a different reason. Here he recounts what happened: "The morning before the [kidney transplant] surgery, I met Hector (de la Torre) a longtime friend and prospective Assemblymember, for breakfast. He knew of our (referring to wife Sharon) interest in moving back to Southern California so our kids could grow up near their grandparents and extended family. He offered me a position on his district staff, and given my previous work in the field, it was a great fit. At first I was stunned by the offer because I was so preoccupied by the transplant surgery less than 24 hours later. But instinctively it felt right and it actually gave me something else to think about the night before the surgery." Mike joined de la Torre's district office that same year. In 2006, another crisis developed: Dave needed a pancreas transplant. The match found was that of a 16-year old girl, who had been killed earlier in an auto accident. She had donated her pancreas online. Dave issued the following tribute to her at the council presentation: "Now I'm a former diabetic [also because of her]." Dave, a buyer for Boeing, has since become heavily involved in the awareness and fundraising efforts of the Donate Life California donor registry. The nonprofit, state-authorized organ and tissue donor registry is administered by California's four nonprofit, federally-designated organ procurement organizations, each responsible for facilitating the donation process in the state-California Transplant Donor Network, Golden State Donor Services, Lifesharing, and One Legacy. Its main message is to encourage everybody-young and old, regardless of age or medical history-to "support life-giving donation, a chance for neighbor to help a neighbor." As pointed out in the proclamation issued by the city council Tuesday naming the month of April as Donate Life Month and signed by mayor Luis Marquez, these are some of the reasons why people should give a donation: *There are currently more than 100,000 individuals nationwide, and more than 20,000 are to be found right here in California, who are currently on the national organ transplant waiting list, with an estimated fatality rate of one every 90 minutes due to the shortage of donated organs; *Millions of lives each year are saved and healed by donors of organs, tissues, marrow and blood ("A single individual's donation of the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine can save up to eight lives; donation of tissue can save and heal the lives of up to 50 others; and a single blood donation help three people in need"); *More than 600,000 units of blood per year are needed to meet the need in California and at any given time, 6,000 patients are in need of volunteer marrow donors; *The need for donated organs is especially urgent in Hispanic and African American communities; "These organ, tissue, marrow and blood donations are life-giving acts recognized worldwide as expressions of compassion to those in need and the spirit of giving and decision to donate are not restricted by age or medical condition," said the proclamation. Also, nearly seven million Californians have signed up with the state-authorized Donate Life California Registry to ensure their wishes to be organ and tissue donors are honored. (California residents can also sign up with the Donate Life California Registry when applying for or renewing their driver's licenses or ID cards at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. An identifying donor sign is a pink dot.) Mike Hollon has of course been a regular presence in Downey at council, chamber, and other association meetings, as well as at various community functions. His primary functions with Calderon, he says, focus on continuing my relationships with the members of community groups while interfacing on the district level with governmental and educational issues. There is some Irish-Slovenia blood in him (on his maternal ancestors' side) as well as Oklahoma Choctaw Indian blood (on his great-great great grandfather's side). Born at St. Luke's Hospital in Long Beach, his early formative years include his elementary schooling at St. Pancratius and high school years, as mentioned before, at Pius X here in Downey where he first befriended de la Torre and met his future wife, Sharon. (They reside in Fullerton with their two sons, Benjamin, 13, and William, 10.) His government career actually began in D.C. when he worked in the legislative staff of Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) from 1993-1998. From there he moved to the private sector when he joined Waterman & Associates. It was a chance encounter one day in an elevator in the Congressional offices when he bumped into former schoolmate and old friend de la Torre, who had been there a year ahead of him, and was occupying an office on a higher floor than his. Meanwhile, come this Saturday, April 30, a major event in the Hollons' calendar is the annual 5K Run/Walk sponsored by Donate Life California, to be held at Cal State Fullerton, where it all began in 2002.It is meant to bring together all those who have either been recipients of organ donations, members of survivors' families as well as those who have expired, the gathering of information on the subject, etc. By a happy coincidence, it also happens to be Mike's birthday. In a press release directed specifically to Downey residents, and issued prior to Tuesday's proclamation, Dave was quoted as saying that "I hope all residents of Downey will be motivated to make the commitment to donate life and to sign up on the registry." The event is also meant as a tribute to those who, like Dave Hollons, lived to tell about their everlasting debt to organ transplant donors. For more information about the registry, the process, and how donations save and improve lives, you are urged to visit donateLIFEcalifornia.org or doneVIDAcalifornia.org.
********** Published: April 28, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 2