Parents of Boy Killed by Gator at Disney World Encourage Those Facing Loss to Donate Organs

Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare — and no one knows that better than Matt and Melissa Graves, whose 2-year-old son was killed in a shocking alligator attack at Walt Disney World in 2016.

Five years after the accident that claimed the life of Lane Graves, his parents are speaking out to raise awareness of pediatric organ donation, a cause they hope will prevent other parents from dealing with the devastation they experienced.

"Because we know the pain of losing a child, we wanted to focus on an issue where we believe we can help prevent other parents from knowing our pain. We chose pediatric organ donation because we saw those families struggling with very limited resources to care for their children," Matt and Melissa said in a recent statement to the Associated Press.

Shortly after their son's death, the grieving parents founded The Lane Thomas Foundation, an organization that helps cover travel and other non-medical expenses for families with children in need of life-saving organ transplants being treated at Omaha Children's Hospital or Nebraska Medicine.

Now, however, they're hoping to expand their message outside of Nebraska, where they've already helped nearly 100 families. Their goal is to raise the issue of pediatric organ donation to a national audience.

"No parent is prepared to lose a child ever. The loss is unbearable," Matt told the AP. "Organ donation may seem like a hard choice to make. … But people who donate their child's organs are heroes."

The outlet reported that about 100 of the nearly 2,000 children on the national transplant waiting list die each year while waiting, and that finding donors can be extremely difficult due to a smaller pool of possible candidates.

The Graves' family's new message comes just before National Donate Life Month in April, and National Pediatric Transplant Week, which takes place each year in the last week of the month.

Lane made national headlines in June 2016 after he was snatched by an alligator and dragged to his death while playing in the sand near the shoreline of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, where a lighthouse statue now stands to pay tribute to the little boy.

When the incident unfolded, Matt leaped into the water to save his son, but was unsuccessful, and the toddler's body was found 16 hours later.

The family welcomed a baby boy named Christian Lane in September 2018, joining big sister Ella.

"Although we know the pain of losing Lane will never go away, we feel God has blessed our family with this precious miracle of life," Matt and Melissa said in a statement to PEOPLE at the time. "We know Ella and Christian have their brother, Lane, watching over them as their guardian angel."

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