Ken Knight describes his son Cole as a “gentle giant.” Cole was a lineman on the Jersey Village High School football team and later attended Blinn College with dreams of attending Texas A&M University and becoming a youth minister.
“He was always best friends with everybody, and he had a mission in life, a Christian mission,” Ken said. “He went on a lot of missions and did a lot of help for a lot of people.”
Cole was one of several organ, stem cell and blood donors and recipients honored in the 2019 Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour. Fewer than 12 cyclists are chosen to participate in the biennial event, which lasts about a week. The tour stretched from Tyler to Waco to College Station to Katy to Victoria before ending in Corpus Christi. This was my first year attending an event, and I was overwhelmed by the love and compassion between these cyclists and the families and individuals they honored.
“These riders do this because it’s a labor of love,” said Debbie Mabry, who helps organize the event. “They do this because they have an overwhelming desire to put more people on the registry, have more transplants happen, have more people give blood.”
Rolling into College Station on Sept. 24 were 10 riders, each one riding for an honoree and with his or her own message to share. Each one arrived with cheers and fanfare after a long trip. Rider Tim Dixon was a funeral director in Corpus Christi who found a disconnect between his colleagues and the organ and tissue center.
Meanwhile, fellow rider Caleb’s parents, Becky and Joe Canal, had been riding with the tour since the early 2000s. This was Caleb’s second year. He described growing up with an older brother, Josh, who had a bad heart. Caleb and his family remain thankful a heart transplant at 17 gave Josh 13 more years with his family.
“Josh got a whole brand-new shot at life, and not just a continuation of the life he had before, which was incapacitated in a way, but he got a shot at being everything that he always wanted to be from the time that he was born,” Caleb said.
Both Tim and Caleb rode Sept. 24 in honor of Cole. Ken and Cole’s mom, Jan, had no idea their son had signed up to become an organ donor until he died in 2015. He did it on his own.
“He’s still on his mission, helping a lot of people,” Ken said.
Jan added that they’ve been notified of or communicated with eight of Cole’s recipients. They even met his liver recipient, who lives in Louisiana.
“He’s a great guy,” Jan said. “If Cole could have hand-picked him, he would have.”