As 15-year-old Mason lay lifeless on the hospital bed, his family wept knowing he would never wake up.
Mason had suffered fatal brain damage after attempting the viral internet “choking challenge” and did not recover.
Yet, while his brain was dead, his organs were being kept alive by all the machines hooked up to his body.
But what man intended for evil, God is using for good – and in more ways than one.
His family, still suffering grief and mourning his loss, chooses to use this experience that has broken their hearts to bring healing to other people.
By offering Mason as an organ donor, as well as publicizing his grave story, they are giving their son’s death a chance to save lives, despite his own life-ending choice.
Viral challenges are simply a part of our culture these days. A viral internet challenge generally targets the youth population who are in their teenage years.
Not all challenges are evil, and some are actually quite uplifting in purpose.
Often people will create challenges for a good cause, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014. Over $115 million was raised for ALS victims by participants gaining sponsorships and sharing their crazy videos.
But sadly, there are too many very dangerous, even fatal, viral challenges. And often the unsafe ones are directly targeted to those least likely to use wisdom and choose against them.
Mason Bogard was one such victim of the strange evils available for teenagers via the internet.
The “choking challenge,” as it’s called, is actually not even new.
The goal is to temporarily pass out, resulting in a feeling that is something like a high. Of course, the intention is to be revived within a moment thereafter.
And for many teens doing this challenge, they do escape the harm that could happen.
But that only adds to the danger. When a kid watches 99 videos of other teens doing a challenge and see that they survived, what would make them think they’d experience anything different?
Mason’s mom, Joanne Jackson Bogard, is very aware of this gap between judgment and reality for teenagers – now more than ever.
But now it’s also the deepest wish of the Bogard family to share their son’s tragic story for the very purpose of preventing other families from going through a similar tragedy.
Instead of hiding beneath the tragedy or even trying to “cover up” Mason’s bad choice for his sake, they are taking a totally different route.
Their goal is that Mason’s death will be known to those who see the other 99 videos and realize they could end up just like him.
So as they approached their moment of goodbye, the family decided to honor Mason’s life by making their own video, praying that it too would go viral.
It shows their last minutes with their unconscious son just before he’s taken away for organ donation.
The video is both difficult to watch, but also inspiring, and in it we hear Mason’s dad say, “Go be a hero, buddy.”
At least 5 people will get another chance at life because of Mason’s donation. What a story of redemption even through a very sad situation…
Mom Joanne Bogard wrote: “While we are devastated that we will never experience so many things with Mason again, we are able to find some comfort in the fact that Mason will save the lives of others. He would have wanted it this way. He was an extremely generous young man.”
Besides the viral video, the Bogard family is redeeming Mason’s story through #MasonsMessage.
This hashtag is being used across social media platforms, intended by the family to spread Mason’s story as far as it will travel.
The grace of God allowing the family to do this thing so opposite to what many of us would do in our grief is pretty remarkable.
Their vigilance to light this flame to warn others of their son’s life choice is not something to argue with, but to somberly hear and respond.
And the Bogards are viewing this effort just as significantly as the organ donation.
Both efforts will no doubt be life-saving.
“Hug your children, tell them you love them. Enjoy every moment and let the little issues go. We know in our hearts that Mason’s love, generosity, and compassion will live on through those that he is about to save,” says Joanne.
Out of that parental love, the Bogards encourage all parents to step up.
And being more protective and involved with what teens see and do online is paramount.
Joanne Bogard knows how hard it is as a mom and the desire to protect, but not end up hated for stepping in either.
However, she knows just how much greater the risk it is to “just let them figure it out on their own,” as so many people seem to be saying today.
There’s a place for freedom, and boundaries with expectations. But there is just as much a vital place for keeping watch in what youth are accessing on the daily.
Joanne intends for this message to not only shift the way parents act toward their kids, but to set an alert for all guardians and mentors as well.
“(Youth) are always creating new ways to find that independence and stay one step ahead of mom and dad. BUT as parents and mentors, we need to be better at educating them on the real dangers in this world; better at keeping our eye on everything that they are posting, commenting and watching online; better at protecting them,” Joanne said.
“#MasonsMessage is to find a way to keep children from having such easy access to these things. #MasonsMessage is to teach parents and mentors how to talk to their children about the dangerous things that are so easily accessible to our children.”
We can commend the Bogard family for their two-fold response to their son’s fatal choice.
Specifically, Proverbs 3:27 comes to mind, which talks about giving honor where it is due, to the extent of your power.
Mason has already paid deeply and so has his family for the negative choice he made.
But bestowing honor on him for the lives he is saving now is necessary, and we can do that by supporting the Bogard family.
As requested, please share #MasonsMessage so that other families or guardians can consider this story for the kids in their care.
Students of all teenage ages would also benefit to hear this story, especially if parents or guardians plan to implement any social media restrictions as a result.
And, in both your actions toward the Bogards directly, and in your response to share #MasonsMessage, “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14), just as the Bogards are doing.