A chance encounter is bringing together a Colorado Springs family with a woman they have a close bond with, but had never met. The heart that once beat in the chest of Jen Ballentine's daughter now allows Dillon Jaap to live.
A scar that runs the length of Dillon Jaap's chest will always remind him of a very special gift.
"You say thank you but I don't know if thank you can ever express what it means having my kid healthy here with us today," said Brandon Jaap, Dillon's father.
It is only possible through a decision made by Jennifer Ballentine's daughter: A little girl named Alex, who at 11, wanted to be an organ donor.
"It surprised me," Jen remembers. "She was like that though. She was ahead of her time in lots of things."
In the year 2000, Dillon, then two, suffered from restrictive cardiomyopathy. He got Alex's heart after she was hit in traffic.
"It was an accident," Jen said.
Dillon survived, but the families never met.
Ten years later, Jen is now biking 7,000 miles cross-country, raising interest and awareness toward organ donation. Her trip, chronicled online, was noticed by Dillon's dad Brandon.
"We were lucky enough to be contacted by them on Facebook," said Jen.
After ten years, suddenly, a new friendship has been formed.
"[I was] kind of surprised and happy," Dillon said.
Dillon has also been busy over the past decade. He has competed three times and won two medals in the U.S. Transplant Games with the help of a new heart. Dillon is also just weeks away from competing in his fourth Transplant Games. He gave his bronze medal to his new friend, Jen, on Thursday.
"Just to remind them of me and to encourage them to keep going," said Dillon.
Dillon's gift of a medal in return for the ability to compete will help Jen push through the remaining 4,500 hundred miles in her ride.
"I'm so proud of him," she said. "I think it's awesome, and I love my medal!"
The bronze hangs near her heart which holds a special place for her little girl.
"After meeting Brandon and Dillon's whole family, Alex's heart is in the right place," Jen said.
In its place, Alex's heart will forever link Jen to the future of a young boy, and a grateful family.
For more information on organ and tissue donation, or Jen's mission, click the links below.
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