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Volunteer Spotlight: Sixteen-year-old Evan Cotton and his new heart provide comfort

Evan Cotton

The days were long for high-schooler Evan Cotton as he waited in the hospital a year ago for his life to be saved with the gift of a new heart. Then as he healed, Evan waited some more.

“Sometimes I couldn’t leave my floor or even my room,” said the sophomore at Farwell High School, north of Mount Pleasant.

Evan Cotton in the hospitalThank goodness for the kindness of people who sent him Legos and a soft, comforting fleece blanket for his stay at University of Michigan Health, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Evan was born with a condition that prevents normal blood flow through the heart. As his health worsened over time, doctors said only a transplant would save his life.

A year later, the now energetic Evan has big plans to do what he can in return. First up: A multi-part event on April 13 called Evan Cotton’s Operation Giveback.

He’s collecting toys for pediatric patients at Mott and hosting a public blanket-making event in Clare. The blankets will go to grieving donor families, which will fill an important and growing need statewide.

Don’t underestimate the impact of a soft fleece blanket.

“I still have the cat blanket someone gave me,” Evan said. “It was with me the whole time.”

Just like his new heart. He’s grateful for that, too.

“He’s been given a miracle,” said Evan’s mom, Kelly. “I hope as Evan grows older, he continues his connection to Gift of Life and keeps helping where help is needed. We’re all so grateful.”

Evan’s dad, Eric, tells how Evan walked the hospital halls for his post-surgery therapy, stopping in young patients’ rooms to share gift cards he’d been given.

“A lot of people gave me things when I needed them,” Evan said. Planning the big event is keeping him busy filling the needs of others. “I’m excited about this.”

Cathy Warren of the Donate Life Coalition of Michigan
Cathy Warren

“I’m so impressed with the compassion such a young man has,” said Cathy Warren, program director at the Donate Life Coalition of Michigan and a member of the Michigan Donor Family Council. Both groups support organ donation awareness and donor families.
“Evan’s going big,” she said. “It’s really heartwarming.”


To create comfort blankets for donor families or plan an event, contact Patty Jo Herndon at [email protected] or Gift of Life Michigan at [email protected].

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