In one of Lauren Stewart’s most recent tweets, she posted the quote: “Love is stronger than fear; life is stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. Trust that the risk of love is always worth taking.”
Lauren’s fiancé, champion sprint car driver Bryan Clauson, passed away in August 2016 from injuries sustained in a crash during a USAC midget race.
Bryan was an organ donor, and Lauren says he was able to save five lives and heal even more with his organ and tissue donation. Shortly after his death, Bryan’s family started a campaign to encourage others to become organ donors, as well.
Their original goal was to get 200 people to sign up. 200 because that was Bryan’s goal in 2016 – to run a schedule with 200 races.
“We reached 200 people in 15 minutes,” Lauren explained. “The organ donation team in Nebraska said their typical campaigns get about 100 people. I woke up the next morning, and thought – let’s add a zero. It just took off from there.”
Since August, nearly 6,000 people have signed up to be registered organ donors through the Bryan Clauson Race to Save Lives campaign.
According to the Indiana Donor Network, “more than 120,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.”
The Indiana Donor Network’s Driven2SaveLives campaign encourages everyone to “Be Like Bryan” and register to be an organ donor.
“Every single donor has the potential to save eight lives,” explained Lauren. “That means Bryan indirectly is going to save nearly 48,000 lives. That’s huge.”
And that’s not the only reason Lauren is a strong proponent of organ donation.
“There’s so much more to organ donation you don’t hear about,” said Lauren, who received her marketing degree from Kelley Indianapolis in 2014. “The fact that Bryan was an organ donor allowed us to have more time with him. It gave us three additional days with him in the hospital that we wouldn’t have had. Bryan’s sister wasn’t there when he was admitted to the hospital, so it gave her time to get there to be with family.
“The organ donation team was incredible, and they explained from the beginning everything they were doing,” added Lauren. “We have a recording and a printout of Bryan’s heartbeat, and they linked us with a company that made us jewelry with his fingerprint.”
“I felt such peace and comfort from those extra 72 hours with Bryan. That is enough for me to be an organ donor, and that’s the reason I hope everyone will register.”
Lauren says they have received letters from two of Bryan’s recipients – including the man who now has his heart.
“Bryan’s heart could not have gone to a better person. This man has children, and he loves to be outdoors. He wrote the most eloquent letter to us. You could tell he is a really, really good person, and that makes me happy.
“Just knowing that a part of Bryan lives on is incredibly special. Anyone who has seen Bryan’s smile – it’s infectious. I hope those who’ve received his organs will smile as well, and know they have a special person in them,” she said.
Lauren says she wants to continue on with the dreams she and Bryan had together. The couple met in 2010 at a racing event in Knoxville, Iowa, and again at Eldora Speedway, when Lauren was Miss Eldora Speedway.
They’d been together ever since, with Lauren handling all the merchandise and marketing for Bryan’s team. She continues to do that with a new team started by Bryan’s dad.
Lauren also plans to continue another project she and Bryan started: promoting a race that will be held in March in Illinois. Someday, she would like to do a memorial tribute race for Bryan at his favorite racetrack in Kokomo.
All of this – she says she does in honor of Bryan.
“It you want to do something, go out and do it. It’s become my new life motto,” she explained. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, I’ll apply for that internship next semester, or maybe I’ll take that course next semester.’ Go out and do it now. Don’t wait, because tomorrow isn’t promised.”
As it says on Bryan’s headstone: “He did living big in a small, humble way.”
It’s a way of living and loving Lauren most certainly continues on, as well.