Two families united nine years ago by a death that turned tragedy into triumph came together again Sunday and donated more than 50 bicycles to less fortunate Livingston children.
Livingston’s Kalem Millard, 20, was killed Dec. 13, 2004, during an ATV accident. After the crash, Kalem’s organs were donated, and one of the beneficiaries, then-19-year-old Jake MacKinnon of Petaluma, who suffers from diabetes, received Kalem’s pancreas.
Although Jake previously remained at home because of his illness, today he’s able to lead a normal life, thanks to Kalem’s organ donation.
“My diabetes was so out of control, I could never do anything, never got to go anywhere until I got that,” MacKinnon explained Saturday.
For four years, the families have raised money to purchase bicycles for Livingston children. They come together each December to hand them over to the Livingston Police Department.
“You just can’t imagine the smiles you all put on the faces of the young children,” Chief Ruben Chavez told the families on Sunday outside the Police Department. “You provide a tremendous opportunity for many kids to have an experience they otherwise might not have.”
The number of bicycles donated by the families has grown each year. On Sunday nearly 20 friends and relatives of both families brought the bicycles in three small truckloads. They met the night before in Petaluma at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and dinner in honor of Kalem. More than 120 people attended, the families said.
“We started with about 12 or 13 the first year,” said Tish Millard, Kalem’s mother. “This is the biggest year so far.”
Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of Kalem’s death and Jake’s new life and both families are hoping to mark the special occasion with the largest offering of bicycles.
“We want to double it, get at least 100 bicycles for the children,” Millard explained.
Donations to “Kalem’s Giving Tree” can be made at any West American Bank.
“It’s always very rewarding and special to do,” MacKinnon said.
Livingston police plan to team up with Santa Claus on Dec. 19 to distribute the bicycles at the “Kops for Kids” event at the City Council chamber on C Street.