An inspirational movie based on the true story of a 15-year-old's tragic death and how he was able to save five lives through organ donation and inspire people on a football team opens in theaters this Friday.
Young Luke Abbate's tragedy provides the story for "The 5th Quarter," starring Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn, and Andie MacDowell. The film seeks to fulfill three purposes: to portray how real Christian families deal with a tragic situation, to begin a dialogue among families about organ donation and to honor Abbate and the people that received his organs.
The victim's father, Steven Abbate, told The Christian Post on Thursday that "the movie is really about our family and how in Luke's tragedy we were able to use that and motivate and inspire individually as a family."
The story begins when Luke Abbate accepted a ride from an older classmate and that upper classman decided to venture on the road at nearly 90 mph. The teenager's reckless driving resulted in Abbate having irreparable brain damage and dying two days later – a death that was only four days before his 16th birthday.
While the Abbate family was still grieving over Luke's accident, they were asked if they wanted to take him off life support and donate his organs for a greater purpose. There were doubts and fears as they tried to make a decision, but Luke had marked the organ donation box on his driver's permit, so they agreed to donate his organs.
Following Luke's death, his older brother Jon, who was playing football with Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., at the time, decided to change his number from 40 to 5, the number his brother had carried on his jersey during high school.
During Wake Forest games, the older brother would hold up his hand with all five fingers outstretched at the end of the third quarter in memory of his brother. Gradually, his teammates, fans and even members of the opposing team began to join in.
The final quarter became known as Luke's Quarter, the 5th Quarter. With the memory of Luke as the motivation, Jon Abbate and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons had the most successful season in the school's history, winning 11 games and only losing two.
Jon Abbate said, "The team was losing and then we would honor Luke and then they would win in the fourth quarter. It was almost like a divine scene. Those kids were working hard but Luke was basically guiding it."
His father shared that the number five had always been present in the family's lives even before Luke's death. For example, they have always unconsciously sat in the stands in section five.
"Our family's tragedy affected so many people and the number five has been spread through our lives even before Luke died but especially afterwards [when] five people received Luke's organs," said Steven Abbate. "The woman received his heart on Feb. 15, 2005. It's been five year since his death and it's not a coincidence that the movie is coming out five years after his death."
While the family wishes that there was no need for the making of the "5th Quarter" movie, they want to tell anyone in a similar unfortunate situation to find a way to honor the deceased family member by doing something good.
"I'll be honest, there are still some dark days. Just because you are Christian doesn't mean that you are not angry at the situation [and] that you don't question," said Steven Abbate. "I wish that Luke was never in the position to give up his organs. But since we were in that position, I'm certainly glad that hopefully we can influence others to make the decisions we made."