ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — After a long battle, 8-year-old Marcus Tolbert has passed away. Marcus was living with Surfactant C Deficiency and was in dire need of a dual lung transplant.
“He fought until the every end,” Marcus’s aunt, Eileen Hendrickson said.
His father, Jack Lester, says Marcus went peacefully Sunday morning around 11:45.
“My boy passed away peacefully in my arms,” Lester said. “My son is now in heaven.”
Marcus and his parents temporarily relocated to Texas where he was on the waiting list to receive a dual lung transplant at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas.
“I hope it helps create awareness to always hug your children, always keep them close to you and to appreciate all the little things in this world,” Lester said.
Lester says Marcus’s health started to decline a few weeks ago. Marcus was put on the waiting list at the end of Sept.
“If you’re not a donor, think twice,” Lester said. “Because it could really save a family…if your baby is dying, why not be a donor to save another baby.”
Marcus was one of nearly 114,000 people waiting for life saving organs in the United States alone. A list that gets added to every 10 minutes.
Recently, Rochester – and other surrounding communities – rallied around Marcus and his journey. Many businesses and organizations started fundraising for Marcus and his new set of lungs, urging people to donate to his Children’s Organ Transplant Association page. He was at $46,499 of an $80,000 goal.
Some businesses, like Bitter and Pour and Forager Brewery created specialty drinks with proceeds going towards his lung transplant. COTA donation boxes for Marcus can be found around town.
“The thing that they wanted more than anything was a miracle,” Forager Brewery manager Joni Thompson said. “And hopefully that can happen with other people.”
While Hendrickson is grieving, Marcus’s death reminds her about the importance of being a donor.
“Me and my husband are both donors,” Hendrickson said. “And God forbid something happens to our children, they will be as well. There are so many kids out there that are waiting for a second chance at life.”
She says while Marcus is gone, he isn’t forgotten.
“He just connects with everyone,” Hendrickson said. “Everyone he meets becomes a part of him, a part of his life, a part of his family.”
His Rochester family – grieving, too. Connecting and teaching those he came in contact with.
“Never to give up, no matter how hard things get, never give up,” Hendrickson said. “I miss him, but he was here for a reason. Every person he interacted with, he touched their lives.”
Hendrickson is organizing a benefit in Marcus’s honor. A Chili Feed Fundraiser with a silent auction and Bingo is planned for the family on Nov. 16 at Lands Lutheran Church in Zumbrota. There is a Marcus J. Tolbert Benefit at Security State Bank in Kenyon.