MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Receiving the gift of life through an organ donation is a life saver, but donating an organ to someone else can also be life changing. That’s what Brenda Cortez discovered nearly 15 years ago when she donated one of her kidneys to a parent she met through her daughter’s school.
Cortez said the experience opened up new doors for her, and even inspired her to create her own line of children’s books.
“The very first book is ‘My Mom is Having Surgery: A Kidney Story,’” Cortez said, showing off six books, all in a row.
The star of many of Cortez’s books is a friendly owl named Howl. She never thought Howl the Owl would have his own line of books, but in the last few years, he’s done that and more.
“Kids love him,” she said with a smile. “We've been out at different community events, as well.”
That includes standing outside Blaine’s Farm and Fleet in Oak Creek recently. Howl has become so popular, Cortez had him made into a mascot costume and a stuffed animal. The mascot Howl stood in the parking lot, waiving at customers, helping to draw in donations for the week long toy drive, which benefits Children’s Wisconsin.
Steve Fifer, better known as Sparky from 105.7 The Fan, was the man inside the costume that day. It’s a job he was happy to do.
“Brenda asked and whatever Brenda asks, we try to help her out as much as we can,” Fifer said.
That’s because Cortez spends her life helping others. She has volunteered and helped to organize the toy drive for the last eight years.
“She's our rock! Without Brenda, it would be tough to do this,” Fifer said.
It’s also given her a new platform to get the word out about Howl.
“Howl started with a saying I came up with, which is ‘help others with love,’ and it spells Howl,” she explained.
Howl is an owl with a message.
“I talk about organ donation in a lot of the books that I write about because I am a living kidney donor,” Cortez said.
The impact that donation had on her daughter inspired her to help other kids understand organ donation.
“There really weren't any resources, at all, for kids to understand,” she said.
Cortez feels the experience changed her life for the better.
“I'll tell people it's a life changing experience to know you have the capability of saving somebody and helping somebody in that capacity,” she said.
Each Howl book contains photos of real people she’s met, featuring kids who’ve had organ transplants and stories that have touched her heart.
Now Cortez lives by Howl’s motto—helping others with love.
“It's a blessing,” she said. “It's wonderful, especially when people reach out to me.”
You can meet Brenda at a book signing this Sunday, Dec. 15th in Greendale from 12-3 p.m. It will be held in the downtown village upstairs from the Panther Pub. You can also find more information at www.HowlTheOwl.com.