RUMFORD — Thanks to a double-lung transplant in 2013, Logan Hamner survived to become one of the 95 Mountain Valley High School students to receive a diploma Thursday evening.

The commencement was made even more special because the donor’s grandparents drove nearly 600 miles to meet Logan and his family for the first time before attending the event.

Jim and Sheri Blackburn of Nottingham, Pennsylvania, grandparents of Aaliyah Boyer, talked with Logan and his mother, Shannon Scott, on the front porch at their Knox Street home prior to the graduation. 

Sheri said, “I’m thrilled that Aaliyah was able to help Logan get to this place. I’m sad that Aaliyah herself won’t be walking across the stage.”

On Jan. 3, 2013, Aaliyah Boyer, 10, of Pennsylvania, died after being struck in the head by a stray bullet fired during a New Year’s Eve celebration in Maryland.

“When we were at the hospital and the family was discussing organ donation, we were praying for our miracle, that Aaliyah would pull through,” Sheri said.

“When the family got together and made the donation, there were other families hoping for their miracle,” she said. “It’s kind of hard because their miracle was going to come at the cost of someone else’s family member.”

She said Aaliyah knew ahead of time about organ donation and she had actually drawn a picture of herself a couple weeks prior with angel wings.

“She had told her other grandmother that she didn’t know why everybody wouldn’t want to be an organ donor. If they had a chance to save lives, why wouldn’t everybody want to do that?”

“It’s like she had made the decision for us by expressing all of that,” Sheri said.

Aaliyah’s donated organs also helped four other people. Her heart went to a 3-year-old girl, a kidney to a 15-year-old boy, the other kidney went to someone else, and a 30-year-old woman received her pancreas.

The Blackburns have not met any of the other organ recipients.

Regarding meeting with the Aaliyah’s grandparents, Logan said, “I knew it was coming. To me, it was like meeting any new people. I just treat them with respect until I truly know them. These people truly deserve more respect than I could ever give.”

Sheri responded, “We’re just glad that her lungs went to a well-deserving recipient, and a fine young man.”

Logan, dressed in cap and gown, showed his cap, decorated in sparkles by his 16-year-old sister, Kennedy.

When he passed it to the Blackburns to see, Sheri was brought to tears by a message on the cap: “Thank you Aaliyah … Fly high.”

Sheri noted, “Today is Logan’s day. As much as Aaliyah was an important part of his health to be able to get here, this is his achievement and, from what I’ve heard, he’s been through so much in his life. It takes a very special person to persevere and overcome all the health issues, doctor’s appointments, follow-ups, etc.”

Logan’s mother said she received a letter from the Blackburns shortly after Logan received his transplant.

“You have to be very discreet, so I just knew their first names,” she said.

But in researching the date of Logan’s transplant, the name of Aaliyah eventually came up in a story. From there, she was able to locate Sheri on Facebook around Christmas of 2016.

After that, a Facebook connection developed between Shannon and Sheri.

At the time of his transplant, Shannon said, Logan had been on the waiting list for about a year.

She said her son was in tough shape, due to complications of cystic fibrosis. “He was on oxygen full time. His weight was about 90 pounds.”

Shannon said that Aaliyah’s organ donation “breathed life back into this family. Her lungs were what brought us all together.”

Jim said, “And it’s kind of nice to know that part of her is still here.”

As a result of Aaliyah’s organ donations and the subsequent letters regarding successful transplants, Sheri said everybody in the Blackburn family has the organ donation thing with their license to make their wishes known.

She noted it’s been a difficult time for their family once again. In October 2016, the Blackburns lost their son, who had become an organ donor.

Sheri said Aaliyah’s mother was supposed to be on their trip to meet Logan, but she passed away April 9.

Sheri said, “We may have been strangers when all this began, but now we’re family. Some family is by blood, some is by choice and this is by both.”

She noted, “In her 10 years, with her final legacy, she touched more people than most people will touch in their whole life.”

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Logan Hamner, left, gets ready to graduate as his aunt, Erica Atkinson, hugs Jim and Sheri Blackburn at Hamner’s home in Rumford on Thursday. Hamner received two lungs from the Blackburns’ granddaughter, Aaliyah Boyer, after Boyer was killed by a celebratory gunshot on New Year’s Eve. The Blackburns drove nearly 600 miles to watch Hamner graduate from Mountain Valley High School. 

Logan Hamner’s sister Gabriella Scott puts her hand on Hamner’s graduation cap. Hamner’s other sister, Kennedy Hamner, decorated the cap and included the “Thank You, Aaliyah” message to thank the 10-year-old child who donated two lungs to Logan Hamner. 

Jim and Sheri Blackburn look at the message on Logan Hamner’s graduation cap on Thursday. Hamner’s sister, Kennedy Hamner, decorated the cap and included a “Thank You, Aaliyah” message to thank the Blackburn’s 10-year-old granddaughter, who donated two lungs to Logan Hamner. 


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