ND coach Sean Gillen removed from life support
Sean Gillen gave everything he had to his football team as head coach, and later assistant coach, at Notre Dame High School.
And Gillen gave everything he had again Saturday as his own time in this world was running out.
He suffered a heart attack on Monday and will not survive, according to a statement from his family relayed via his girlfriend, Jody Stumbaugh, on Saturday.
But his organs will be donated, a generous and selfless act that was celebrated at a Gift of Hope flag raising ceremony Saturday afternoon at OSF, just a few hours before he was expected to be taken off life support.
UPDATE, SUNDAY: Peoria County coroner Jamie Harwood on Sunday morning confirmed Gillen was removed from life support, and died at 10:40 p.m. Saturday night. Initial toxicology tests were negative. Harwood said an autopsy will be performed Monday.
"Yes, Sean is close (to passing away)," said Notre Dame chaplain Kyle Lucas on Saturday afternoon, after leading the prayer service. "This day ... the response today was just amazing.
"So many people here for Sean. So many stories shared and people just wanting to be together."
The auditorium was packed, and staff, friends, family, former and current players and well-wishers flowed beyond the doors and into the hallways outside.
Former and current Notre Dame football players embraced in the hallway afterward. Running back Logan Cover talked about his coach with teammates.
The Gillen family filed out after the ceremony, and next will attend an honor walk scheduled for 8:30 p.m. tonight at OSF.
That is an emotional, solemn, private ceremony where Gillen will be transported from his room to the operating area, where he'll be removed from life support and his organs harvested.
OSF staff and friends will line the hallway while Gillen's family escorts him on that final journey.
Here is the statement from Stumbaugh:
"First, to everyone that has shown support for Sean, his mother (Olivia), his brothers (Stu and Seth) and myself and the rest of his family, we would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
"Unfortunately, on Monday night Sean went into cardiac arrest while working at his gym. He was provided with emergent care as soon as possible and taken to OSF.
"Sean has remained in critical care since Tuesday morning with hopeful expectations he would recover fully. To everyone's disappointment, and sadness, we were informed that Sean sustained irreversible brain damage from lack of oxygen and will never recover.
"At this time, Sean has been transitioned to comfort care. Even though Sean is the one in need, his desire to help others is and has always been greater.
"Because of his wishes there will be a Raising of the Flag ceremony (for Gift of Hope) at the hospital at 3 p.m. today.
"Later this evening, there will be an honor walk to move him from his room to the OR, to fulfill his wishes. Sean's courage and generosity will be his final gift.
"Anyone who would like to honor Sean is welcome to attend these ceremonies."
That last part has since been clarified to note the flag ceremony was for the public. The honor walk is not.
God bless Sean Gillen and his family.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.