Eastern Iowa organ donor honored during Hawkeye Downs races Saturday

Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 10:46 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The races at Hawkeye Downs Saturday had a much deeper meaning than just winning a regional event. It was to show the importance of organ donations.

You didn’t have to look any further than NASCAR driver Joey Gase’s car. Hands covered the hood with messages from organ donors and a picture of Joe Bertling.

“It was a true honor,” said Liz Schroeder, Joe’s sister. “It gave me a smile and made me tear up.”

Bertling passed away in 2022 after a golf cart accident. It was then that Schroeder and Joe’s mom Jean Lake found out Joe was an organ donor.

“He saved a lot of people,” said Lake. “a 20-year-old boy got his heart.”

It was that conversation that Gase said people needed to start having. Something he knows all too well after his mom passed away in 2011 from a sudden brain aneurysm.

“I’ve been able to meet two of my mom’s recipients and to know that they are still here today because of my mom’s gift,” said Gase.

According to the Iowa Donor Network, there are 583 Iowans currently waiting for an organ transplant. Signing up to be a donor is something Gase and Bertling’s family said not only kept their loved ones’ memories alive, but gave new life to other families.

“He’s watching us from up there, and I’m sure he’s smiling down on us,” said Lake.