Father rides 2,500+ miles, prompting 60K organ donor registrations in late daughter’s honor

Bill Conner

MADISON -- An almost unimaginable family tragedy led a grieving father to carry his daughter's memory with him in everything he does.

Bill Conner was on a ride, officiating college basketball and advancing toward higher-profile games.

"That was me. I loved it. That was my love," said Conner.

Twenty-five years or so later, Conner was on another ride.

"It was a spiritual thing, and I am not a spiritual guy. It was just amazing, day, after day, after day," said Conner.

In January of 2017, Conner's daughter Abbey died while on vacation in Mexico after allegedly being slipped drugs in a drink. She drowned within two hours of arriving at an upscale resort with her brother, mother and stepfather. Her death triggered investigations into guest safety at hotels in Mexico. Her death also ultimately sent Bill Conner out on his bike. In the summer of 2017, he rode more than 2,500 miles, from Madison to South Florida, referencing Abbey as his co-pilot in both the past and present tense.

"She's a wave. She's been orchestrating everything I have been doing since she's been gone," said Conner.

Abbey was an organ donor, and Bill Conner's ride allowed him to meet the recipient of her heart -- a powerful experience. It also helped generate more than 60,000 new organ donation registrations.

"I get recognized a lot, in a lot of places, but the great thing about it is, they say, 'You're Abbey's dad,' which is an honor," said Conner.

Abbey Conner's family has filed a lawsuit against the resort where she died, and the web company that handles that resort's bookings.

"This is about all the people behind us -- the people that have lost children the way we've lost our daughter, or lost loved ones that have never had a voice. We're doing this for everybody behind us that unfortunately has gone through what we've gone through," said Bill Conner.

Conner said the best way to honor his daughter is to consider becoming an organ donor.

CLICK HERE to learn how to do so.

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