Family forges rare friendship after tragic loss

Dale Carnahan (Photo: WJLA)

One family's tragedy gave a local girl a second chance at life. Recently, the two families met again for one special night. A bittersweet reunion after a rare twist of fate.

"I feel like I'm here to take care of everything for him…," said Cathy Carnahan of her son, Dale Carnahan.

Dale was a high school athlete who died too soon. The 18-year-old was buried in a Redskins jersey after the car accident that took his life.

"I would do anything to have my son back… anything…," Cathy exclaimed.

Poolesville, Md. is a small slice of Americana 30 miles from Washington, D.C., where a water tower stands tall and high school sports unite the community.

Dale's sister, Kelsey, now a standout, three sport athlete, had a basketball game the night her brother died - she played anyway.

"Sports became her safe haven… and she just poured herself into it," her mom said.{ }

Kelsey added, "I know he would have wanted me to play, so best way to honor him that night…On my shoes I wrote, 'love and miss you Dale.'"

In death, Dale gave back as an organ donor, providing a better life for people all along the East Coast.

"Over 150 people they said. From his skin to his bones to his eyes…," Cathy explained.

His heart went to 14-year-old Julia Taylor of Northern Virginia.

"You know, this is your last hope that someone else's life has been shattered so not a lot of joy in that," Julia's dad said.

Now, Julia, who could barely walk up the steps a few years ago, is an athlete herself.{ }

"I feel a lot better. I play sports…I'm gonna try out for the soccer team…," Julia said.

It's rare for a heart recipient and the donor's family to meet, let alone become close friends.

Now this family, biological and extended, gather one more time for a small town ritual.

It's senior night for Kelsey. Wearing Dale's favorite number 12 one last time for the home crowd, she was escorted by her parents and Julia - with Dale's heart right by her side.{ }

"I wish he could be there…,"Kelsey said. "But I know he is watching, so it's honoring him at the same time…"

Two girls connected arm in arm and connected at the heart, almost like family.