WADING RIVER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Shoreham-Wading River High School football player Tom Cutinella.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Cutinella’s legacy lives on due to a monumental decision the teenager made just before he died.
“People wanted to be around him because of his kindness, compassion, love,” said his father, Frank Cutinella.
“A perfectly healthy 6-foot tall, 185-pound, vibrant junior in high school, and he died from a helmet-to-helmet football hit he never saw coming,” said Frank Cutinella, “We’re not looking to blame anyone, but there has to be changes.”
Cutinella’s family is not dwelling on the pain of a life lost, but rather on the promise of a life saved.
“He mentioned he wanted to be an organ donor. Didn’t think much about it at the time,” Frank Cutinella said. “Little did we know less than three months later, we’d be making that decision – or following through on his wishes.”
The Shoreham-Wading River linebacker made his wishes clear while taking his driver’s permit test. On Friday, his heart was still beating in grateful Fordham High School graduate.
The Tunnel to Towers Run was Tom Cutinella’s favorite. He had participated twice, and since he was to be headed to West Point, he admired running alongside cadets and first responders.
“I asked his heart recipient if she would join us, and she decided that she would participate in the run with us in Tom’s honor,” said Kelly Cutinella.
This year, his mother jogged alongside the woman being kept alive with her son’s heart.
“I knew in my heart at that time that Tom was with us, and we were running together,” Kelli Cutinella said.
At the end of the month, the Cutinellas will be honored at a special event- — reuniting them with many of the recipients of their son’s organs. Others received his corneas, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and skin tissue.