Woman volunteers with Gift of Life after mother's death, donates her own kidney to stranger

One person can save up to eight lives through organ donation.

It is those type of statistics that have led officials in Pennsylvania to name January 8 “PA Donor Day.”

When Kelly Schmitt suddenly lost her mother back in Dec. 2007, she says the loss nearly swallowed her whole. At the same time, the loss made her aware of organ donation, and she found a purpose that helped her cope.

“It was really hard to say ‘why me’ when the answer was right in front of me. I love her dearly but they needed her even more than I needed her,” Kelly explained.

For years since her mother’s organs saved numerous lives, Kelly has volunteered with Gift of Life, providing support and information. Recently her decade of commitment, if possible, became even more personal.

Kelly had never met Rok Hyon until a friend simply came to her asking for information about organ donation. Rok, a Deacon at the friend’s church, was in a tough situation.

“I found out that I had end-stage renal failure, I had 5-10% kidney function,” Rok explained.

Kelly isn’t sure what it was, but she says something moved her to get even more involved for a complete stranger.

“I feel very strongly that I was destined to do this, that Rok and I were destined to be in each other’s lives, that my purpose was to save his life,” Kelly said.

Kelly decided to donate one of her own kidneys to Rok. The surgery was a success and the two now consider each other brother and sister, and their families have become family.

Now they share their story to inspire others.

On Pennsylvania’s first statewide donor day, Kelly and Rok appeared on Good Day Philadelphia to talk more about the difference one person can make by being more informed about organ donation. 

For more on PA Donor Day, CLICK HERE.


For the latest local news, sports and weather, download the FOX 29 News app.