In 2010, 16-year-old Carson Sumpter visited a sports medicine doctor with what he suspected was a pulled muscle in his leg. This “normal, healthy” teenager was diagnosed with stage 4 osteosarcoma (bone cancer) at that appointment. It would be a devastating diagnosis for anyone, and it was especially heartbreaking in someone so young. Carson’s mom, Kim McBrayer, said her son had a special gift for connecting with people and caring about them, and an infectious smile. As he faced cancer treatment, he was an inspiration and a light to those around him more than ever before.

Carson was a musical prodigy who could play any instrument and was a member of his high school band and his church worship band. After his diagnosis, Carson offered comfort to his bandmates Nick Williams and Mark Hermecz. “He just kept repeating to me, ‘Hey, it’s going to be all right,'” Hermecz said. “Carson was one of the strongest men I ever knew.”

“He chose to live joyfully,” said Connie Nolen, a teacher at Pelham High School whose son played on the golf team with Carson. Nolen said she was amazed by Carson’s approach to life with a positive attitude. “I think that Carson Sumpter was my teacher.”

Rebecca Burnett, who taught Carson in the ninth grade, added: “Every time I saw Carson, he was joyful,” Burnett said. “Here he was battling cancer and he was always asking me sincerely … ‘How are you?'”

Carson died July 12, 2011, almost a year after his diagnosis. But his legacy lives on years after his passing. “He did more in 17 years than most people do in 70,” Kim said.

As a lifelong giver, the choice to donate his corneas was an easy one. He became a registered donor when he first got his permit, and his family knew of his wishes long before his diagnosis. While his cancer made the rest of his organs and tissue ineligible for transplant, two individuals are now able to see with the help of corneas donated by Carson. Through his gift, Carson’s legacy of comfort and hope lives on today.

His mom remains ever grateful for the 17 years she had with Carson. Kim says the key to happiness after such a loss is to be thankful for her son. Knowing that he lives on by helping two people see gives her hope and comfort.