The Nicholas Green Story: One Boy’s Impact on Italy

What would you do if your child was a victim of gun violence?

What if he died because of his injuries?

What if this happened thousands of miles away from your home?

Tough to imagine, isn’t it?

In 1994, a seven year old boy from California was traveling on the A3 between Salerno and Reggio Calabria with his family when their rental car was mistaken for a car carrying stolen jewelry. Shots were fired at their car and young Nicholas Green was shot. Two days later he died.

His parents made the impossibly brave and generous decision to donate their son’s organs and seven Italians, four of whom were teenagers, were helped or saved in the process.

The Nicholas Green story was a major news event throughout Italy and at least one movie has been made in the United States to retell this story. Organ donations have tripled since Nicholas and his family led the way in what is called “The Nicholas Effect.”

Most people in Italy know who Nicholas is. There are numerous children in Italy who have been named after him. There is even a park dedicated to his honor in downtown Catanzaro.

I encourage you to read “The Nicholas Effect – A Boy’s Gift to the World.” The book is out of print, but a shorter version has been reissued online with the consent of the publishers. His father, Reg Green also has a new book out, “The Gift that Heals.” Sample chapters are available online.

I promise you it isn’t a story you will easily forget, but the lessons of openness and the love for humanity shown by the Green family should probably be remembered.

So, on the anniversary week of the canonization of Calabria’s own, Saint Gaetano Catanoso, I’ll be thinking of another one of Italy’s young heroes. And if you watch those videos … I bet you’ll be thinking of him, too.

*** Congratulations to Donna Kwiatkowski, who won a free signed copy of the book “My Cousin the Saint” by leaving a question here at My Bella Vita.***

10 Responses
  1. Thanks for reminding us of Nicholas. His gift is known in France, too.
    Pep remembers this story well from when it happened and seriously, one of his friends named his son “Nicholas” after this Nicholas. I was amazed.

  2. It breaks my heart that we live in a world where people shoot at cars for any reason. It isn’t as bad here as in the US, but it’s bad enough.
    I heard shots on the hill behind me at 2 AM. There is not one possible legal reason to hear them.
    Yea, what is up with that? Are they shooting AT something or just listening to the sounds of their guns?!?

  3. joanne at frutto della passione

    I was already living in Italy when that happened and I remember the reactions of politians and average citizens. I also remember the effect that it had on organ donation here in Italy. I hadn’t thought about this story in ages. Now that I have a son this story has a very different effect on me, it is much harder to think about now.
    I can imagine it is much more difficult to think about when you have children his age. Sad, sad, sad …

  4. Carla

    I actually didn’t know about this until 2001 when Francesco told me. What a sad and touching story and a wonderful memorial of Nicholas there in Cantanzaro. Thank you for the links.
    Prego, Carla. I asked Pep about it, too but he didn’t really like talking about it. My friend Antonino is the one who told me about the park.

  5. I remember this and I did see the movie- very moving!
    What an amazing family. I am so happy that some good came out of a senseless act of violence.
    I will never forget the story of Nicholas.
    What a beautiful little park in his honor too. Thanks for sharing this.
    Prego. I was thrilled when I realized there was a park in his honor in Catanzaro. Like I said, I’d seen the movie years before I even visited here.

  6. j

    The whole handgun issue in this country makes me sick. Do they allow handguns in Italy?
    Where exactly in CZ is that park, Cherrye?
    I hear you, J! People do have guns in Italy, but it is MUCH MORE RARE/hard to get than in America. I don’t know anyone who has one. The park is on the main corso (Corso Mazzini) in downtown Catanzaro right across Bar Mignon (where they have amazing gelato!).

  7. Very sad lovely to have the beautiful little park in his memory.
    It is a sad story and SO touching. I love to sit and read in this park when I get the chance.

  8. Debbie

    Sadly,I remember this as well. We lived in a small town in California when it happened. My husband, our 13 yr old son, and I were watching the news. Our son declared, “If anything like that ever happens to me, feel free to donate my stuff too.” My husband wasn’t so sure, but after talking through his “fears,” he decided to become a donor. (I already was and had been for 10 years or so.)

    Little did we know my husband would die 9 months later. So, because of Nicholas, I KNEW what my husband’s wishes were and could donate w/o worry.

    It is now 2012 and I’m doing a “research” speech for Toastmasters and my topic is organ donation. I couldn’t do it w/o including Nicholas.

    I pray God continues blessing his family and may they know how many people pray for them. What an amazing testimony to the power of love!

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