By ANDREW MCGINN
Losing a child can change someone’s life in a profound way, and it certainly did for Jefferson native Lenny Luft.
He signed up to be an organ donor.
“I never really gave much thought to it,” Luft, 44, confessed recently. “Now that has totally changed.
“When you’re in the ground, you’re taking all that with you. What are you going to do with it?”
His son, Logan, was killed in the summer of 2017 when an ATV overturned on him near Charles City, where Luft has been a police officer for the past 18 years.
Logan was 15.
When getting his learner’s permit, Logan had agreed to be an organ donor.
“If (his life) would have stopped in that field that day, I don’t know where we’d be,” Luft said.
Instead, Logan’s heart now beats inside a 9-year-old girl in Kentucky. His liver saved a 15-year-old girl in Minnesota. One kidney went to a 3-year-old girl in Minnesota and the other was given to a 39-year-old man in North Dakota. His pancreas found its way to a 52-year-old woman in South Dakota.
His skin, bones, tissue and corneas could benefit dozens of others.
Knowing that Logan helped so many has in turn helped Luft and wife Wendy heal — and now they’re advocating for a change to state law that would give Iowans another opportunity to consider organ donation.
Logan’s Law would enable Iowans to become organ donors when buying a hunting or fishing license.
For Luft, a 1993 graduate of Jefferson-Scranton High School and the son of Bev Luft, there could be no greater tribute to his eldest son.
“Logan was an avid outdoorsman,” Luft said. “Every chance he got he was down at the river fishing. The kid couldn’t get enough of it.”
On Feb. 20 at the Capitol, Logan’s Law cut right through the hyperpartisan politics that have come to define state government and passed the Senate unanimously.
The Iowa House will need to take up the proposal next before Gov. Kim Reynolds can sign it into law.
A photo snapped last week of Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg with the Lufts and their two other children, Landon and Lilly, suggests it’s a shoo-in.
“Politically, it’s a great bill for everybody,” Luft said. “It’s for all Iowans.”
Currently, an average of 20 people die every day in the U.S. while waiting for an organ transplant.
But with driver’s licenses for ages 17 to 66 good for up to eight years, most people are only asked once a decade if they want to become an organ donor.
With hunting and fishing licenses in need of renewal annually, “it’s another way to sign up,” Luft said.
As part of Logan’s Law, information about organ donation would also be provided in Iowa hunter education classes.
Just months after Logan’s death, Luft was in his patrol car in Charles City when he heard on the radio about a similar bill in neighboring Minnesota.
Luft then hit up their local representative with the idea during an encounter at a sporting event.
“It’s a roller-coaster of emotions,” Luft explained, describing the aftermath of losing a child. “It will always be there with us.”
It was the Fourth of July, and Logan was off with his friends, playing in the river, fishing, setting off fireworks and fooling around on an ATV.
In a moment, the worst happened.
He would have been a freshman in high school later that summer.
“What made it a little easier is that he had checked the donor box on his Iowa driver’s license,” Luft said. “We just ultimately fulfilled his wish.”
Logan left behind a YouTube channel, Chuck Town Outdoors, where he chronicled his adventures fishing and hunting.
The videos are still there for all to see, Logan forever frozen at 15.
“It’s priceless,” Luft said of the videos.
But for as long as the five people who received Logan’s vital organs continue to live, he’s not fully dead.
The Lufts even got to hear their son’s heart beating inside a new child.
“For us, it was a huge thing knowing that his heart has never stopped beating,” Luft said. “It’s been an awesome thing to see these kids grow up and their families move on with their lives.
“If we can help other families get through what we got through, it’ll be a good thing.”