Remembering Ali Gerlach – her legacy lives on 17-years after her passing

February 2, 2020

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

Alison Gerlach was an athlete, a scholar and one of those kids that everyone loved from the moment they met her.

Ali was a senior at Williamsville High School when she died 17 years ago.

It was a sudden death. In January of 2003, Alison suffered a sudden and apparently inexplicable stroke. Four days later, she was diagnosed with Moya Moya disease. A rare disorder, involving blockage of the main arteries and blood vessels to the brain. There is no known cure.

Ali died three days later.

After their precious daughter’s death, Ali’s parents chose to honor her memory by donating her organs to sick or dying children and adults. It was, without a doubt, a reflection of her love. Her all-giving, selfless love. She saved five lives.



Even after death – Ali lives on because of the gift of life. An 11-year old girl received her heart, her lungs went to a mother of two, her liver went to a 47-year old father, and a 40-year-old woman received her pancreas and a kidney. I interviewed that woman years ago. I’ve never in my life met a more grateful person. When she met the Gerlach family for the first time – it was a joy and heartbreak that is impossible to put into words.

The recipients got a new life thanks to Ali’s organs. But, the Gerlach family got a gift, too. The gift of knowing their little girl’s legacy would live on. They ensured other families would not suffer the enduring pain they did and still do.

Her family began Ali’s Rally, a foundation giving back to the community and working with high schools across WNY to promote and spread awareness of the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Ali’s Rally brought the entire Gerlach family together and helped them build an incredible legacy for Ali.

Since its inception, the Gerlach family has helped raise $335,000 for ConnectLife (UNYTS).

Randy and Claudia Gerlach have worked incredibly hard to make sure Ali’s spirit will always live on through their foundation.

They’ve teamed up with ConnectLife and created a ‘Donate Life Club’ to bring awareness to the power of organ donation. To the need. They’ve gone into countless high schools to encourage open dialogue about a very difficult and uncomfortable subject. They’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help spread the word.

What an incredible legacy.

I will leave you with a quote off of the Ali’s Rally Website,

“In life Alison Gerlach brought life and happiness to those she loved. In death she has given life and happiness to many she never knew but who will be forever in her debt.”

Countless lives saved thanks to an incredibly generous family.

Think of the Gerlach family today – and think of Ali’s legacy everyday. They are saving lives and someday it might be the life of someone you love.


About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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