Family who lost 20-year-old son opens up about his legacy on National Donor Day

Alex Encila of Bothell loved helping others. He also tried to inspire those around him, whether it was through music or his love of travel.

“He’s a happy boy. He’s always positive,” said mother Annabelle Encila Pendon.

While exercising one day, he hit his head on the floor when he missed landing a plyometric box jump. His life was tragically cut short at just 20 years old.

Through their grief, Alex Encila’s mother and his stepdad, Joe Pendon, found some comfort. They made the decision to donate his organs to help others.

They spoke up about the importance of organ donation on National Donor Day, which is dedicated to spreading awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation. National Donor Day also happens to fall on Valentine’s Day, the day before Alex Encila would have turned 22.

“I thought, ‘I will see him through others.’ Basically, with his gift, he will live on,” Encila Pendon said.

His gift included 11 tissue grafts; six organs, including his heart, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas; and two corneas.

“He was always out there willing to help people, and I think that’s what he would always want to do because that’s his nature,” Joe Pendon said.

It was all made possible with the help of LifeNet Health in Renton, which is the only full-service tissue bank in the Northwest.

“You can make a significant difference in someone’s life after we’ve lived ours and leave a legacy for family and friends to be proud of,” said Chandler Brownlee.

Brownlee, general manager with LifeNet Health, said 1 in 20 Americans will need some type of tissue transplant in their lifetime.

“It’s very important. They could be lifesaving and health-restoring,” Brownlee said.

Alex Encila’s family hopes to meet his recipients one day. They’ve already received a thank-you letter from the person who got his lungs.

“I was very emotional because they were thankful. And they told me because of Alex, they would be able to see his grandkids,” said Encila Pendon.

True to his nature, Alex Encila is still helping others — with his final gift.

You can register to become a donor at the Department of Motor Vehicles or online at