Organ donation

After losing her daughter, Dawn becomes advocate for organ donation

A woman holding a golf club, wearing a t-shirt that reads "remarkable"
Dawn Lyons-Wood helps run a charity golf tournament to promote organ donation awareness and honor the memory of her late daughter Emily, who was 19 when she died in a snowmobile accident in 2015.

Emily Lyons absolutely loved golf.

In high school, Emily was named to the all-conference team her junior and senior years and was captain of the Beaver Dam High School varsity girls golf team.

It seemed completely fitting to her mother, Dawn Lyons-Wood, when two of Emily’s former high school teammates approached her about organizing a charity golf tournament to honor Emily’s memory and promote organ donation awareness.

Emily was just 19 when she was killed in a snowmobiling accident on Feb. 28, 2015, and became an organ and tissue donor. She was able to give the gift of life to six people and the gift of sight to two others.

“Emily had signed up to be a donor when she was 16,” Dawn said. “She took the pressure off us, so we didn’t have to make the decision for her. I’m thankful for that every single day.”

After losing her daughter, Dawn became an active volunteer with UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD), speaking to community groups, churches and driver’s education classes about the importance of registering as an organ donor.

“I am so proud of my daughter for being a donor that I just want everyone to know,” she said. “I wear my donor family pin every single day in the hopes that someone will ask me about it.”

The first Emily C. Lyons Golf Outing at Old Hickory Golf Club in Beaver Dam, Wis., was in July 2015 — just five months after Emily died. The planning committee, which includes Dawn, has hosted four outings since then, and it has grown every year. In 2018, the outing raised more than $19,000. Half of the proceeds benefit UW OTD’s education fund, and the other half go to a memorial scholarship in Emily’s name.

“Emily was such a kind person,” Dawn said. “When people think of being kind, they think of Emily, and us. I wish I could express how amazing that is. I have to continue helping others in her name — doing everything she wasn’t able to do because she was taken from us so soon.”