The Crane Coffee shop at 119th and Pacific Streets became host to a special kind of party on Saturday morning.
Through a mouthful of muffin, 3-year-old Gwen Rohrig explained what brought her family to the Omaha coffee shop from their home in Syracuse, Nebraska.
“We are having a party for the ‘angel baby’ in my belly,” she said.
Her mom, Mandy Rohrig, stepped in to explain: Gwen was born with a rare virus that attacked her organs. At one week old, she was diagnosed with liver failure and put on the list for a liver transplant. At 16 days old, she received what her family calls the “ultimate gift”: a liver from an “angel baby.”
Gwen is now an energetic 3-year-old with a mess of blonde curls. On Saturday, those curls bounced up and down in the drive-thru window of the coffee shop as Gwen and Mandy informed customers that their drinks would be paid for by the Rohrig family.
The Rohrigs were just one of at least 16 families across the state who celebrated successful organ transplants by participating in Random Acts of Kindness Day.
For more than an hour on Saturday morning, Gwen and her 6-year-old brother greeted customers and passed out cards explaining Gwen’s transplant story and with information on how to register to be a donor. The family bought more than 45 cups of coffee and raised $66 for Nebraska Organ Recovery.
In downtown Lincoln, another family spent their morning in a coffee shop to spread the word about organ donations. Stu Schweitzer and his 2-year-old son, Will, are both kidney transplant recipients. Will, who was born with a birth defect that caused kidney disease, received his kidney on Aug. 1, just four days after Stu received his.
Joined by both their living donors, the father and son spent Saturday morning at The Mill Coffee and Tea in downtown Lincoln, purchasing coffee for customers and encouraging them to “pay it forward.”
“I think people don’t always realize you can be a living donor,” said Talicia Schweitzer, Stu’s wife and Will’s mother. “We just hope that the kindness continues to spread.”
Several of the customers who met Gwen at Crane Coffee in Omaha shared their own stories of organ donations — some had family members who’d received transplants and two were recipients themselves. Upon hearing Gwen’s story and seeing the little girl bouncing in her mom’s arms, one woman even teared up as she waited for her coffee.
“Have a nice day,” Gwen said to the woman and then jumped down from her mom’s arms to run off through the shop.
Aside from the scar running across her abdomen, she’s a normal 3-year-old. She’s ornery and energetic, her mom will tell you. She loves to laugh and enjoys playing with her brother.
“We are so grateful,” said Gwen’s father, Kyle Rohrig. “We are happy do whatever we can to promote this cause and celebrate.”