LE SUEUR, Minn. (WCCO) — Six years ago, Mark Aune was all but certain he was about to die. He and his wife even picked out a cemetery and headstone.

But now, not only is he still living, he’s very busy helping young people, in honor of a teenager who saved his life.

Five days a week, ten hours a day, Aune dedicates his time to mentoring young students at Park Elementary School in Le Sueur.

“We always try to make reading fun,” he said. “And when reading is fun, then they’ll like to read.”

In 2009, Aune was near death with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a disease that caused his liver to fail.

The only hope was a transplant, which he finally got.

“About the third or fourth day, I was feeling so much better,” he said. “It’s amazing what a new liver will do for you.”

But it happened only because of another family’s tragedy – a crash that killed an 18-year-old man, a young man who’d pledged to be an organ donor.

“So about the fourth day,” Aune said, “I was laying in my room and I was recovering, it occurred to me that this mother was burying her boy. And what was I going to do?”

This year, Aune saw an ad for the Minnesota Reading Corps, and signed up to become a mentor.

Also with his second chance, he’s getting a degree in English. He attends evening classes at Minnesota State University in Mankato, alongside kids much the same age his donor was.

“Coming back here [to campus], I see the face of my donor,” he said.

He’s dedicating his life to helping young people, because of one young person who cared.

“My donor loved people enough to give this gift to people he’d never know,” Aune said. “And now this school is full of children and that gift is still giving.”

Aune has never met the donor’s family, but he prays that he gets to someday. He wants to personally thank them for their son’s thoughtfulness.

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