Giving the gift of life during the holiday season: ‘It is a really nice feeling’

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Going under the knife willingly during your Christmas holiday is not the way most college students would want to spend their time away from campus. But Dan Miller could not think of anything else he would rather do during his break. That was because his actions helped save someone else's life.

"I’m very proud I made a decision like this," Dan said. "It is a really nice feeling you’ve had that impact on someone."

Dan Miller

From rebuilding storm ravaged New Orleans to helping seniors and mentoring at risk youth in New York, the 20-year-old Chesterfield native has lived a life filled with volunteering to help others. But the James Madison University student yearned to donate more than just his time. That is why he agreed to donate vital organs too.

So on December 21, Dan went under the knife to donate a kidney. The recipient? A complete stranger.

Dan did not have to look far for inspiration. Dan’s older sister, Lauren, donated her kidney to a stranger in December 2014.

"I’ve seen the benefits and the great outcomes that can come from organ donation," Dan said.

But this was not a normal case of sibling rivalry.

Dan and Lauren Miller

Dan and Lauren Miller

"I’m really proud of him," sister Lauren said. "We’re really alike so I think we see each other do something and we’re like, 'Hey, that is a cool idea.'"

Lauren and her two friends, Skylar and Heather, were previously featured as Heroes Among Us after they parted with two kidneys and portion of a liver. Their selfless effort helped the nearly 120,000 Americans waiting for kidneys.

Skylar, Lauren and Heather donate organs.

Skylar, Heather and Lauren donate organs.

"A lot of those people will never get off of that list and they’re never going to get the kidney they need," Dan said.

The siblings are championing the benefits of organ donation among young people.

"If I wasn’t inspired by Skylar it was kind of like a snowball effect and we’re hoping to keep it going. Definitely," Lauren said.

Initially, parents Dwayne and Terry Miller had their reservations, but having two children literally give so much of themselves made Mom and Dad beam.

"When Dan decided to do it I got excited. There was no doubt in my mind that this was a good thing," mother Terry Miller said. "So proud. I couldn’t be prouder."

Dan said he did not have a single regret as he walked out of the hospital about 48 hours after his surgery.

"I feel pretty darn good," Dan said. "A lot better than I thought I would after having a vital organ removed from my body."

"No matter how hard it was for me," he added, "someone benefited so much from this. Right now I’m happy with my decision."

Click here to learn more about organ donation.

Who is the hero in your life? Nominate them for Heroes Among Us

Greg McQuade and CBS 6 News are featuring local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.