18 years after cross-country lawnmower ride, Utahn remains an advocate for organ donation

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Back in 1997, a young boy from Utah rode a lawnmower across the country in a quest to raise money for organ donation. Now, a grown up Ryan Tripp continues to be an advocate for live-saving donations.

Tripp was twelve when he heard about Whitnie Pender in 1997. She was a 3-month-old who needed a liver transplant but didn't have the money to pay for it.

“We had a crazy idea to ride a lawnmower across the United States,” Tripp said. “We thought it would be a perfect platform for raising money for Whitnie and raising awareness for organ donation.”

Whitnie's mother, Le Ann, sent FOX 13 News this statement: "We will forever be truly grateful to Ryan and his family for the sacrifices that they made on behalf of our family and all families who are awaiting a donor."

Tripp’s 3,000-mile and 42-day lawnmower ride garnered national attention. He and his father raised enough money to help Whitnie, set a Guinness world record, and meet president Bill Clinton. Today, he remains an advocate for organ donation.

“The need at the time was 40,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, that need has almost tripled,” Tripp said. “Now there’s over 120,000 people waiting for an organ transplant.”

That’s why Tripp says it's so important to be an organ donor. You can do so by saying yes on your driver’s license or state ID card or online, here.

And, remember to tell your family your wishes.