At the fifth annual "Veronica Dinner" on Thursday night at the Sheraton Grande, the World Children's Transplant Fund gave its Family of the Year Award to Maggie and Reginald Green for demonstrating what WCTF founder, Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Mark Kroeker, termed "raw courage."
When the Greens' 7-year-old son, Nicholas, was killed by bandits during a family vacation in Italy last year, they donated his organs to save and enhance the lives of others. Their actions created what is known as "The Nicholas Effect" in Italy where there has since been a marked upsurge in donor awareness. In a video presentation and in person, the Greens spoke about their family tragedy.
"We weren't doing anything that could harm Nicholas and we were doing something to help others," Reginald Green said, remembering when he last saw his dead son in the hospital. "I noticed his freckles and thought, 'I wish they could have used those too.' "
Nicholas' sweet, freckled face shone from the video and in family photos and movies. "He was not just a bright boy, but a very good boy," his father said, "and we believe it would have been what he would have done if he had the chance."
Italy's Consul General Gabriella Battistello presented the Greens with a golden heart in gratitude for "transforming understandable rage and grief into a gift of hope and love."
In response, Maggie Green said, "We haven't learned very much about death, but a lot about life. Life is precious and anything we can do to save one life is worth it."
Also honored was Dr. Jerry Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, who was moved by the Green family and by memories of a life-threatening accident his son, John, had luckily survived.
He tearfully accepted the "Veronica Celebration of Life" Award, named after Veronica Arguello, an Argentine child Kroeker had aided in getting to the United States for a liver transplant in 1988. Veronica died after a third transplant. In her memory, Kroeker established WCTF to help other children.
The dinner-dance was preceded by a cocktail hour and silent auction. Kroeker, hosting the event with his wife, Diane, was amazed that new board member Perry Maness had paid $500 for a ride-along in a black-and-white with the deputy chief.
Maness said he'd bought a ride-along at auction twice before. Kroeker had always been too busy to fulfill the obligation, but this time, "I'm not going to let him off the hook," said Maness.