Don Van Zant loves pizza. Tucked away in North Lewisburg, in Champaign County, he owns Cardinal’s Pizza.
“When you find it how it works, you don’t change it. I’m a great believer in you don’t try and reinvent the wheel. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Van Zant said.
It is that consistency that’s been his business model for the last 27 years.
He consistently tried to stay healthy, and he went for his routine doctor’s visits. In 2010, Van Zant said he felt fine, but then he got back some test results.
“They said I had NASH, Non-Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the liver,” Van Zant said.
He went through various treatments, but then in 2012, the 63-year-old developed liver cancer, and doctors put him on a transplant list.
In October that same year, it was a little after 3 a.m., and the phone rang. It was the University of Cincinnati — they had found a liver for him.
Three hours later Van Zant and his family were at UC and nurses were prepping him for surgery. At the time, his family had no idea the donor’s family was in the same waiting room, preparing to say goodbye.
The donor was 26-year-old Drew Mason from Owen County, Kentucky. He and two other people were in a truck when it crashed. One of them died, and machines were keeping Mason alive.
His mom, Luci Grubb told News Center 7′s James Brown she had no idea he was an organ donor.
“When we learned he was going to be an organ donor, we rejoiced in that,” Grubb said.
Van Zant said just hours after surgery, “the surgeon said he had never said this to anyone else, but that liver, God made that liver for two people. he said it was a perfect fit.”
Mason donated six organs and two corneas.
Almost a year later, the two met. Van Zant asked Grubb if it would be all right if he tried to set up a scholarship fund in Drew’s name at his high school.
Grubb said it sounded like a great idea.
Van Zant chose to do six scholarships a year, the same number of organs Mason donated, worth a thousand dollars each.
Since 2014, he has donated almost $50,000 to graduating seniors at Owen County High School in Kentucky.
“I will appreciate Don more than anyone will ever know, and I can’t express to him what he has done to carry on Drew’s memory. I think this is part of his purpose,” Grubb said.
Van Zant said the scholarships are possible because of the people who live in and around North Lewisburg.
In small-town U.S.A., people buying pizza and supporting Cardinal’s Pizza fundraisers are “Making a Difference” in the lives of high school seniors they will never meet.
Remember how important Van Zant said consistency has been to his success? Sure sounds like a perfect recipe.
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