Giving Hope, Restoring Lives

Carly and Blake Fogleman understand the power of restoring lives when someone registers to become an organ, tissue or eye donor. As volunteers with Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA), the Foglemans share their personal connections to the organization’s mission. 

Carly’s son Matthew was an insatiably curious and energetic kid. Matthew enjoyed the outdoors, including hunting and fishing, and was oftentimes awake before his grandfather to begin prepping for the day’s hunt. He played t-ball and was naturally outgoing. Carly describes him as, “very social, with a big heart—he was always helping other people.” 

Matthew’s curiosity led him to teach himself to read at an early age. With support from his teacher, he also helped his fellow classmates to learn to read. As a straight-A student, Matthew mastered his schoolwork and planned to teach himself a second language during the summer of 2011. “Matthew went to the library to get some tapes to learn to speak Spanish,” explains Carly. “He was a sponge and couldn’t get enough information—he was always moving.”

In June of 2011, at just nine years old, Matthew passed away in an accident. As his care team shared the devastating news with Carly, she thought at that moment, “What would Matthew want?” She knew in her heart he would want one more act of kindness. She told his care team she wanted Matthew to become a donor. 

Knowing that Matthew restored another person’s life gives Carly tremendous hope. “I think anytime a person chooses to become a donor, it’s amazing and you’re giving the gift of life,” said Carly. “You can live through the tragedy of something like that and provide someone else the opportunity to have a transplant. I think that’s what gets me through a lot of times.” 

According to the Mid-America Transplant Council, more than 230 people received lifesaving organ transplants in Arkansas last year. Over 300 Arkansans currently remain on the waiting list to receive a transplant. 

Carly found support with the Arkansas Donor Family Council and began sharing Matthew’s story within the group and at events hosted by ARORA. Volunteering not only helped Carly process her grief but also provided her time to celebrate and share her son. “That’s my Matthew time. I still get to do something for Matthew,” Carly says. 

Two years later, Carly and Blake were introduced to one another and quickly discovered a kismet connection. A few years earlier, Blake had suffered a major heart attack and underwent emergency surgery. His care team had placed him on the transplant list to receive a heart. Months later, Blake had grown strong enough to receive a pacemaker and a defibrillator and had been taken off the transplant list. Blake also had been diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease more than fifteen years ago and at the time had learned he may one day also need a cornea transplant.

Following his heart attack, Blake became an organ donor. “Matthew’s journey and my journey helped bring us closer together,” says Blake. Carly and Blake have celebrated nine years together. 

“As volunteers for ARORA, we help dispel myths and provide factual information,” Blake adds. “Whether you’re a donor family or on the recipient list, it’s not a group you expect to join, but it’s a family that is loving, caring and supportive, whichever side you’re on. Anyone can save a life and it is easy to sign up.”

“Blake and Carly are incredibly dedicated to ARORA’s mission and to their work with the Arkansas Donor Family Council,” says Beth Cameron, manager of family aftercare at ARORA. “Volunteering for ARORA not only helps to educate the community about the vital need for donated organs and tissues but can also provide comfort for those who find meaning in sharing their donor hero’s story.” If you have a donation connection and are interested in sharing your family’s story as an ARORA volunteer, feel free to email or call 501-907-9138.