Life after Death: The Importance of Giving

This article was sent to us and republished with permission by Lauren Murray, a current student McDaniel College (and Archmere Academy ‘18). She wrote this article for a class assignment.

I first met Anthony when I signed up to do a musical at St. Edmond’s Academy. I remember thinking that Anthony was such a sweet and cute little boy who I saw as a little brother. Over the years our friendship grew. St. Edmond’s had a lot of special events throughout the year, which afforded our big musical theatre group the opportunity to get together and hang out with one another. There would be dances, fundraisers, Halloween and Christmas events throughout the year and we would run around with each other. Even though I decided not to do the musical my 8th grade year, I went to the show to support my friends, and Anthony was one of them. I remember sitting on the left side of the auditorium trying to get Anthony’s attention while he was on stage. I’m pretty sure I caused him to crack a smile and that’s a smile I will never forget. It was one of those smiles you can’t help, that’s real and genuine. We had a lot of fun times doing those musicals together and sometimes I wish we could go back to those much simpler times. After I started high school, I didn’t see Anthony at all and we seemed to have lost touch over the year. Anthony ended up going to Archmere Academy, the same high school I attended. I remember watching a football game with my friends and seeing Anthony his freshman year hanging out with the soccer guys. I remember being so conflicted as to if I should go over and say hi or not. In the end I chose not to, and this is one of my biggest regrets. So, we didn’t really talk in high school until his Sophomore year when we had Chemistry together. We were lab partners a couple times throughout that year and it was nice to get reacquainted with Anthony again. He was still that sweet kid with the genuine and real smile. Anthony was an unbelievable friend and person in so many ways. He taught us the importance of being kind to everyone and living each day spreading love to everyone no matter what. Sadly, Anthony died his junior year from injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident while he was on the way to school. It was devastating to all of us for he touched so many people's lives. Anthony lives on in all of us, but he also impacted people he had never met. People who never knew Anthony's loving personality, his talents and his genuine and real smile. 

Members of the cast of “Guys and Dolls” & friends - Spring 2014. Lauren is pictured to the right of Anthony.

Members of the cast of “Guys and Dolls” & friends - Spring 2014. Lauren is pictured to the right of Anthony.

Not only does Anthony live on in all of us, but also to those who he donated his organs to. He donated both his kidneys, his liver, corneas and bone, tissue, and skin samples. Anthony’s organ donation benefits 50 to 100 people and he saved five lives. Anthony’s decision to be an organ donor changed so many people’s lives. Almost 35,000 people in America get organ transplants each year, but a lot of people don’t receive the organ transplants they in need time to save their lives. We need as many people as possible to become organ donors, raise money and awareness for organ donation so we can save more lives each year. Many people don’t know what being an organ donor truly is. According to Donate Life NC, being an organ donor means that “you have chosen to make all of your organs available for transplant at the time of your death.” To become an organ donor, sign up when you receive your license at the DMV or you can sign up online at: Anthony’s family specifically worked with an organization called Gift of Life whose mission is, “Donate Life provides compassionate care for donors, transplant recipients, and their families, and are committed to educating the public about the need for donor registration.” Gift of Life also helps families cope with losing a loved one by offering support and love. Not only does organ donation help those in need of transplants, but also the families of those who are losing their loved one. It gives the family a sense of peace knowing that their loved one has saved and enhanced so many lives. Anthony’s impact goes much farther than the effect he had on people he knew and loved when he was alive. His selfless act will live on and will continue to spread love to future generations. To learn more about organ donation and how you can help go to:

- Lauren Murray

Life after Loss: Anthony's Story

Being a donor family, we were approached by Gift of Life and asked to take part in their awareness campaign to help dispel some of the myths behind organ donation. We felt strongly about helping others understand what it means to be an organ donor, and how it can help those who have no other options available. The experience of being a donor family has been beautiful. Knowing that Anthony lives on in the lives he saved has given us hope and helped us tremendously as we heal and face our new normal. Many thanks to Gift of Life for sharing our story to help others realize the importance of being an organ donor.

Donor Mom, Melanie Penna, shares the story of her son, Anthony who in his passing gave the gift of life to others. His legacy lives on in the hearts of those who loved him and now even those who never knew him.

Inspiration for local Gift of Life

John Jordan was one of twenty people who joined us in the operating room when we took Anthony off of life support.  All of us that night witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit bring grace, healing and joy to a moment of great sadness.  We now celebrate John’s gift to Mike Hare and pray for their ongoing good health! 

We hope this article inspires you to consider becoming a living donor to someone in need, including Bill D’Amato, one of Anthony’s mentors who is in need of a kidney! Please support Bill by becoming a member of the Billy D the Kidney Team for the Wilmington Kidney Walk on Sunday Oct. 28th. (link: Or consider becoming a living donor if you are A Positive.

Here’s the article written by Mike Lang from The Dialog:

A Tribute to Anthony Penna by Mabel Yu

As the first anniversary of Anthony Penna’s untimely departure from this life approaches, I want to share a story with all of you about just how special this young man was and the impact that he had on our daughter, Annie. It is a story of friendship, courage and, above all, faith.

Anthony was Annie’s schoolmate, fellow Mastersinger and friend. From Anthony, Annie learned to have the courage to ask. She, though shy, stepped out of her comfort zone and fulfilled her high school prom dream. Building upon the lessons in courage that Anthony taught her, she is now blazing her trail at the University of Notre Dame, Anthony’s beloved college. Thank you, Anthony, for lifting up Annie and all the others whose lives you touched.

Here is the story.

Anthony, only a sophomore at the time, secretly wanted to be invited to Junior Prom. While attending the Festival of Gold Choral Competition in Chicago with his fellow Mastersingers, he adorably shared his availability to accompany the Junior ladies, including Annie, to Junior Prom. Anthony had a way about him that endeared himself to anyone who knew him. He won all of their hearts by being the perfect sweet gentleman on the trip.

Annie, two weeks before her Junior Prom, worked up the courage to ask Anthony to be her date. It was a night she will never forget. Annie will always carry the sweet memory of feeling like a princess in her Cinderella gown as she slow-danced with her handsome date, Anthony. With courage and friendship, they made each others’ wishes come true.

That next year, Annie, now herself a senior, found herself secretly hoping to be invited to Junior Prom. Learning from Anthony, she coyly suggested to her junior Science Olympiad partner “I am available if you know a nice guy who needs a prom date.” When Ethan asked, she was elated and the evening was a special memory for each of them.

For Annie, getting a senior “Promposal” was high on her High School Wish List. So when Matt, one of the funniest Swim Team members posted a question on Instagram “Who is willing to go to prom with me?” Annie boldly responded “I will if you give me a cute Promposal.” Matt did just that – and it made their Senior Prom unforgettable.

Anthony was also there for Annie when she made the decision to attend Notre Dame. Annie felt Anthony’s presence when she first visited ND. She believed Anthony would look out for her to get into his beloved college, and Anthony did!

Many times in life we learn critical life lessons through the examples of those whose lives have touched us and impacted our own. Through Anthony’s connection to Annie, she learned to step outside her comfort zone to make her dreams happen. I often wonder . . . what if Anthony had never asked Annie that question about Junior Prom? What if he hadn’t planted that seed in Annie’s mind? Every day as Annie continues to grow and reach for her goals, she will always carry that piece of Anthony with her – the piece that tells her to never be afraid and always have the courage and faith to pursue your goals and dreams, because they just might come true.

Dear Friends, in honor of Anthony, I hope you will consider:
-Sharing YOUR story about Anthony.
-Sharing this story if you like it.
-Supporting the Anthony Penna Foundation.

Archmere Academy Mastersingers 2018 Anthony Penna Tribute

The Archmere Academy Mastersingers end-of-the-year banquet traditionally includes a video of the past year to send off their seniors. Very special thanks to Katherine Alberta for this year's video, which included the tribute to Anthony seen here. The song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" heard in the background is performed by the 2015-2016 Mastersingers, which Anthony was a part of. He is and forever will be singing with them in this clip.

Excerpt from the end-of-the-year banquet video.

On this Mother's Day

On this Mother's Day, I mourn the loss of a really special person, my son Anthony.  His memory lives on in so many beautiful ways, including the continued love and support of the Wilmington and Archmere communities.  Special thanks to Theresa Chua and the Junior Class of Archmere who purchased a class ring for Anthony and presented it to Gabrielle at the Ring Mass a couple of weeks ago.  Such love continues to keep us strong.  So, today, I say thank you to all of the families who hold us close.  And, I thank God...for the gift of Gab's birth...and for the gift of her survival.  Happy Mother's Day from this strong and faithful mother to all of you!  xoxo  Mel


A note from Rob, Mel and Gabby Penna

On behalf of the Penna Family: We want to thank the entire Wilmington community for your thoughts and prayers following the tragic death of our son, Anthony. The outpouring of support during our days at the hospital and for his viewing and funeral were beyond description. We are thankful for so many things...that our daughter is alive and recovering, that Anthony was surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends at the time of his passing, and that so many people were touched by his life, including three local families who benefited from his organ donations. Our family continues to be lifted by your prayers and kind gestures. With gratitude, Rob, Mel and Gabby


Homily for Anthony James Penna by Father John Zagarella, O. Praem., October 7, 2017

The years of our lives are made up of a collection of seconds, any one of those seconds can change all the seconds that follow, all the seconds that make up the rest of our lives. We may be asking ourselves why, but I cannot give you the answer to that searing question. I wish I could. I do know that we hear in Scripture that God's ways are not our ways. Clearly, that is true...but even more true than that is God's promise that he will never leave us. God is with us now and I firmly believe that God was holding Anthony and Gabby in the palm of his hand in that car last Friday morning, September 29th, the Feast of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael, the Archangels.

I do not have the answer to the question why. But I do think that Anthony's death gives us an answer to the question, "How." How do we live our lives from this moment on? If Anthony's sudden and untimely death teach us anything, it's how to live this precious life we have been given. The time is now to celebrate. The time is now to forgive and reconcile. The time is now to notice the beauty of the changing leaves. The time is now to turn on the radio and play it loud. The time is now to dance as if nobody is watching...somebody probably is, but who cares? Do it anyway. The time is now to connect with that family member or friend we've been meaning to call. The time is now to live our lives in a way that gives witness to others that there is a God, and he sits on our shoulders and carries us, making just one set of footprints in the sand. Anthony gave us all the gift of life, if we make each second count, if we make each second filled with goodness and grace.

The days that have transpired since have been nothing short of devastating, miraculous, and blessed as we prayed and kept vigil with Anthony, Gabby, Rob, Mel, and the Penna family. To be sure, words cannot capture the tragedy and the beauty of the last week, but one thing is certain, that the journey we traversed was and is right here and now, holy ground. We prayed, we cried, we remembered, we laughed. In fact, as a group of about 20 of us prepared to enter the operating room to escort Anthony to Jesus, we were dressed in white sterile scrub uniforms and funky shower cap-like head gear. Rob turned and looked at all of us and said, "We look ridiculous!" And indeed we did!

Gabby, Mel and Rob, the Penna family, the students of Archmere, Saint Edmond's, Ursuline, and Salesianum communities have redefined the term Amazing Grace...our Archmere Auks...the parking lot, the heart, the tributes, the courage, the Mel.

Anthony was an organ donor. And on Tuesday night, October 3rd, when the nurse nodded, indicating that Anthony had breathed his last, I will never forget Mel's response: "OK, now go save some lives, Baby." Indeed, that very night, three individuals were waiting to receive Anthony's organs, his gift of life. And many others stand to benefit in the days to come.

Anthony was a Mastersinger, a soccer player. He was loved by so many. The display of love and support last night at the Patio was stunning, simply beyond words. Anthony was also a pretty smooth operator. Rob tells the story of just recently, Anthony was concerned about some physics problem he had to resolve that night. Rob said, "OK, Anthony, go upstairs and get to work and I'll check on you in a while." When he went into Anthony's room, Anthony was playing a video game. Rob, confused by the fact that shortly before, Anthony was worried about his physics homework. "Anthony," Rob said, "How come you're playing a video game....shouldn't you be trying to get that physics problem solved?" "No worries, Dad," he said not interrupting his video game, "I got people working on it!"

Anthony James Penna was born on August 10, 2000 weighing 6lbs. 9 oz., and was 20 inches long. Brothers and sisters, in the year 2000, Anthony James Penna was baptized into Christ on Saturday, October 7th.

Funearl Procession IMG_7395.jpg