While Karen L. Paulick and Kaitlyn Doorhy never met, the two women share something in common.
About 18 years ago, Ms. Paulick was the recipient of a liver transplant. Without it, the Cutchogue resident said she would have died and would never have seen her son grow up.
At age 16, Ms. Doorhy decided she wanted to become an organ donor because she believed it was important.
On Aug. 22, 2014, her tragic death devastated the local community after she was struck by a car while crossing the street near her sorority house in Bridgeport, Conn. The 2012 Mattituck High School graduate and aspiring attorney was a junior at Sacred Heart University when she died at age 20.
During a memorial service Saturday marking the first anniversary of Ms. Doorhy’s passing, Ms. Paulick addressed a standing-room only crowd where most people wore pink — Kaitlyn’s favorite color — at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Mattituck and explained how meaningful the decision to become an organ donor is.
“Although we never met, I felt a deep emotional connection to her when I heard about her passing,” Ms. Paulick said. “I reached out to her family to let them know what organ donation has meant to my life. Although there’s deep sorrow and pain for the donor’s family, much hope and joy is given to numerous other families on the transplant list.
“Her life has changed the lives of people who will always be grateful for her gift of life.”
Ms. Paulick said New York state ranks last compared to the rest of the country with residents agreeing to become organ donors. More than 10,000 people in the state are on the waiting list to receive an organ, she said, adding that only about 24 percent of residents have signed up to become a donor.
Dave Rodgers of the Long Island chapter of Transplant Recipients International Organization will be at Sunday’s services at the church to discuss how to become a donor.
Following Saturday’s memorial, a portion of the crowd met at the Sacred Heart R.C. Cemetery in Cutchogue where pink roses, sunflowers and cards were placed around Ms. Doorhy’s grave, which reads “Keep Smiling Beautiful” and “The Lord is my strength, a force in my life.”
As the crowd shared some sparkling wine, William Araneo, president of a nonprofit group in Ms. Doorhy’s memory called “Kait’s Angels,” read a poem he recited last year in her honor and described her as headstrong and loving.
“She is a force,” he read. “A force for change. A force for courage — speaking out for what’s right.”
Mr. Araneo, who’s also a longtime member of the Mattituck Lion’s Club, added that Ms. Doorhy “raised the bar” for the annual Strawberry Queen competition, which she won in 2011.
After Saturday’s services, Ms. Doorhy’s mother, Darla, said she was grateful for the community’s support and described the gathering as “beautiful.”
“Kaitlyn lives on,” she said. “I’m thankful — Kaitlyn is looking down on us.”
Top photo caption: From left, Dave Rodgers of the Long Island chapter of Transplant Recipients International Organization, Karen L. Paulick of Cutchogue, friend of Doorhy family Lucas Pia, and Kaitlyn Doorhy’s parents Darla and Joseph. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo photos)