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Daughter's Legacy of Helping Continues in Death

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RALEIGH — Vanessa Hall was quite a young lady -- smart, pretty and athletic. She was a singer, scholar-athlete, varsity cheerleader and member of the National Honor Society.

But her passion was dance. Vanessa was a member of the Company Dancers of Durham and was an integral part of the Company's effort to raise money for Duke Pediatrics through the Multiple Choices for the Children Foundation.

"She just loved dance," said Louise Hall, of her daughter.

The Northern Durham High School senior lost her fight for life 15 months ago, after a two-day struggle at Duke Children's Hospital, the result of injuries suffered in a traffic accident.

Those who knew her say Vanessa lived with a zest for life and spent time helping to enrich the lives of others.

But in death, Vanessa has also touched lives. Fifteen people received her vital organs and tissue.

"I'm alive," said Susan Daniel, the recipient of Vanessa's liver. "And I thank God, and I thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart."

Daniel was one of many that recently met with 18-year-old Vanessa's family. They sat sharing, crying and remembering the life, legacy and joy that one young woman left behind.

"It has given me a chance to be a family with my husband and daughter again," said Debbie Lowder, who received Vanessa's heart and lungs.

The recipients just might be the most thankful people in the world. They have all been given a second chance at life, thanks to a gift -- Vanessa's gift.

"There is no way that I will ever forget Vanessa. She will always hold a special place in my heart," Lowder said.

As they sat talking, they looked at black and white photos taken of Vanessa doing what she loved most -- dancing.

"I see a beautiful artist -- a person who strives for perfection," said Hank Widmer, a third recipient, who received a kidney.

"Reaching for heaven, yeah," Lowder said.

"She's so perfect," Daniel said crying.

This meeting could have been very painful, but it gave Louise and Butch Hall a chance to continue a slow healing process.

"Our loss has just been a devastating loss," Hall said.

It was also a chance for all of them to bond and to learn about how Vanessa is still changing lives.

"It's been a wonderful influence on my family, and on my work with deaf children," Widmer said. "I have so much more energy to work with them, and am more able to help them."

After her transplant, Daniel wrote a poem -- just in case she ever had the chance to meet her donor family."I can see you walking the streets of gold, and blowing kisses at the butterflies. ... May God bless your loving parents for the gift you've given to me. They too are my family, and I will treasure them forever. ... Soon we will all be with Jesus."Most recipients, however, never get a chance to say thanks. That's because most people needing transplants never get them. Each day, nearly 55 people receive an organ transplant, but another 10 people on the waiting list die because not enough organs are available.

And that's why those affected by Vanessa's gift plan to use the strength they've gained to change that.

For those wanting to become an organ donor, the process is as simple as checking the box on the back of your driver's license, but it begins by talking with family members and letting them know your wishes.

"If Vanessa could not continue to live, then she wanted to help. And it is wonderful that she could help others to live," Hall said.