Survivor host Jeff Probst Speaks Out for Organ Donation

Survivor host Jeff Probst Speaks Out for Organ Donation

The Taylor’s Gift Foundation is all about giving the gift of life.

The Beginning with Taylor

Todd and Tara Storch started the Taylor’s Gift Foundation in 2010 when their thirteen year-old daughter, Taylor, passed away from injuries received in a skiing accident on a family vacation in Colorado.  In the midst of coping with their unfathomable grief, Todd and Tara decided to donate Taylor’s organs.  As a result, Taylor was able to save five lives through organ donation.  In her memory, the parents organized the Taylor’s Gift Foundation and made it their mission to re-gift life through providing a way for others to hear their story and to sign up to become an organ donor.

Proud Spokespersons for Organ Donation

Over the years, I’ve had the honor to interview Todd as well as Taylor’s Gift celebrity spokesperson Alex O’Loughlin (Steve McGarrett, Hawaii Five-0).  I’ve also had the privilege to speak with Producer Carol Barbee, who created and spearheaded the life-changing CBS series Three Rivers, whose theme was organ donation.

Most recently, I had the pleasure to interview Survivor host Jeff Probst, who has in the last few months signed on as the newest celebrity spokesperson for Taylor’s Gift.  What he had to share with me was priceless.

The Jeff Probst Show

Todd and Tara were guests on The Jeff Probst Show in May of last year.  Probst was unaware of the Taylor’s Gift Foundation prior to that time, but after meeting Todd and Tara his life would never be the same.  Probst told me, “I first met Todd and Tara when they came on the show.  And, literally, while we were talking during the segment, I was really inspired by the devotion and dedication they both had.  And I was already feeling that I wanted to be a part of Taylor’s Gift because I saw the incredible momentum, and the importance, and the need.  So, right after the interview, I literally went backstage and got on their website and signed up to be an organ donor.  Then, when I went home, my wife signed up.  I also called my parents when they were in town, like a week later, and we signed them up.  Becoming a part of their group was a very easy transition for me, because I saw the need correlated with the results.  You can actually see the results.  You are truly making the world a better place.” 

On the show with Todd and Tara were Patricia Winters, Taylor’s heart recipient, and Jonathan Finger, one of Taylor’s kidney recipients.  Probst continued, “Todd and Tara’s story was just incredible.  There was this mom.  Her name was Patricia Winters.  And she needed a heart.  And her kids were young.  And she just wanted to live long enough for them to have a memory of her -- just one more day.  Patricia is the mom who received Taylor’s heart.  Imagine both moms being on the show.  Here’s one mom, Tara, who lost her daughter, Taylor.  But because Taylor gave her heart, another mom was able to live on and make these memories with her child.  So seeing both of these moms together was very tangible and incredibly powerful.  And it did make you wonder the basic question, which is, ‘Why aren’t more people doing this?’  It seemed so effortless.” 

A Life-changing Experience

“It was touching to the point of bewildering and overwhelming simultaneously.  These two people sitting on the couch had organs from the same young, beautiful girl, and they were living because this girl chose to outlive herself.  Then there’s the bewilderment of why is this such a big story.  Why isn’t this commonplace?  We all understand that no one wants to die, but we are all mortal.  We are all going to pass at some point.  So, once I’m passed, if there’s anything about me anyone can use, any part of me, anything that will help somebody else live, of course, take it.”

Probst has become a true advocate of organ donation and Taylor’s Gift.  He told me, “I think anytime you get involved with an organization such as this, you’re trying to bring awareness and through awareness, you’re trying to bring change.  The impact that Taylor’s Gift wants to make is to get more people signed up to be organ donors. All you have to do is say ‘yes’.  Really, that’s all.  You don’t have to do anything else.  And the rest takes care of itself.  In our family, we have been very active in terms of letting everyone in our family know that we did this, that this is what we want.  And, for me, I’ll use whatever awareness I can drum up when I do interviews.  I’ll talk about Taylor’s Gift any chance I have.  I feel like this is something I will be a part of for a long, long time.” 

Just One More Day

And the effect Taylor’s story has had on Probst’s life has been profound.  He said, “The impact it had on me is the gift of just regular everyday moments.  When I think of Patricia, her goal was not to go run a marathon.  Her goal was just to be able to make breakfast for her kids.  And, as a dad now and a husband and a friend and a brother and a son, that’s what I see.  It’s just living.  It’s the simplicity of just saying, ‘I can extend my life by offering you what I have when I’m gone.’ 

“So, the impact on me was profound in the most simple and beautiful way.  I think it was this correlation of seeing the result, of seeing this woman, Patricia, and knowing that her heartbeat was the heart of another person, a beautiful young girl.  That’s pretty powerful.  Taylor did her work when she said yes.  And Patricia was the benefactor of it.”  (Sadly, Patricia passed away in December 2013).

Probst continued, “The impact is, ‘I love life.’  I am a very much the-glass-is-half-full person.  We have fun every day in our house, with our kids.  We laugh.  We hug.  We say, ‘I love you.’  And, if there were something that happened to me where I needed an organ, to have one more day with my kids, I would do anything to get it.  To another dad, I would say, ‘I can’t use mine anymore, and you can.  I hope you get to wake the kids up another day, and have another day to take them to school, to make their lunch.’  That’s really it.  I think, for me anyway, the story is, why aren’t more people doing this?  This is a big deal.”

Giving Life for Others

“I think Taylor’s Gift is truly about life -- about leaving your footprint on the planet when you’re no longer here.  It’s life giving.  It starts out as a sad story.  Somebody passes.  But, it ends as a happy story.  Somebody else lives on.  And, one thing Tara says to me all the time is, ‘Taylor will now live on forever, because we started this Foundation, and it is her spirit, literally her organs, and now her spirit, that will live on.  And, I would say to my friends, ‘Why not?’  Give me a reason why not.  And if you can’t come up with a good one, just go to taylorsgift.org and sign up.  It takes about four minutes.  If you do nothing else good in this world to make it a better place, you know you’re doing this.  That says a lot.’”

To learn more about the Taylor’s Gift Foundation and organ donation, the gift of life, please visit http://taylorsgift.org.   

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Written by: Cheryl Hollar See other articles by Cheryl Hollar
About the Author:

Cheryl Hollar is a regular contributor at mytakeontv.com and a Hawaii Five-0 re-capper at thecelebritycafe.com.  Her work has taken her around the globe to cover such stories as Mark Harmon’s Annual Charity Weekend Baseball Event in Oklahoma City and Hawaii Five-0’s red carpet seasonal premieres in Hawaii.  She particularly enjoys writing about celebrities who use their fame as a platform to help others. You can read some of her other articles at http://www.mytakeontv.com/author/cherylhollar and http://thecelebritycafe.com/columnists/Cheryl%20Hollar.

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