When Michael Balsley-Rodriguez passed away his family thought his dream of being a football coach died also. Little did they know that dream would live on.
Wednesday morning it was the 8th grade graduation at McCaffrey Middle School. The ceremony went smoothly, but one teen was missing. Michael. With the help of the cheering crowd a man in a teal shirt got up when they called Michael's name, receiving the diploma for the young man.
"The main reason was to honor Michael and the family because without them, I wouldn't have survived," Eric Blackwell said, "He gave me a second chance."
Eric had stage four liver cancer and was told on March 9 he would need a transplant to live. The same day he was put on a list, tragedy struck and Michael Balsley-Rodriguez suffered from an accidental, self inflicted gunshot wound, passing away two days later. Michael's family still feels heartbreak, but Wednesday they found some comfort knowing parts of him are still alive. Michael saved 5 lives through donation, including Eric.
"It is cool, it gives me peace, I gave birth to that liver." Michael's mother Silvia Vansteyn.
Sierra Donor Services statistics show nationally that 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
The story between Michael and Eric is even sweeter. Michael always had a dream of being a football coach and Eric is one.
"When I found out I was speechless, I said 'are you kidding me?'" Silvia said.
He actually coaches the Lodi Titans, the pop warner team Michael played on.
After the ceremony each family member took a turn taking a graduation photo with Silvia, their little piece of Michael.