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Bodega Bay, California

Children's Bell Tower

A poignant memorial to a young boy whose death spurred a dramatic increase in organ donations in Italy—dubbed the "Nicholas Effect." 

In Northern California’s Bodega Bay, a poignant chiming of bells can be heard on the wind from the nearby ocean.

The Children’s Bell Tower, just off Highway 1, is dedicated to all children, but was erected as a memorial for one young boy, named Nicholas Green. During a visit to Italy in 1994, seven-year-old Nicholas was killed in a botched armed robbery, their family car mistaken for a jeweler’s. Nicholas’s parents donated his organs and corneas, and seven Italian patients (four of whom were only teenagers themselves) received the precious gift from Nicholas.

The Green family’s decision stirred a lot of attention in Italy, resulting in a dramatic increase in organ donation levels that had been among the lowest in Europe. This increase and everything else good that came from the tragedy has come to be known as l’Effetto Nicholas, the “Nicholas Effect.”

In the little boy’s honor, his hometown of Bodega Bay erected the memorial. It consists of three nested towers, with 140 mismatched bells hanging from the steel cross-bars. The majority were donated from Italian schools, churches, ships, and mines, all to show their gratitude for the Green family’s selfless decision.

The center bell, made by the prestigious Marinelli foundry that has been forging papal bells for over a thousand years, bears an inscription of the names of the organ recipients. Pope John Paul II blessed it himself, and the Italian President and Prime Minister paid their own respects, arranging for all the bells to be flown to California by the Italian Air Force.

The Nicholas Effect can still be felt in Italy today, and in Bodega Bay too, whenever the wind blows, even the gentlest breeze, in the chimes of the memorial bells.

Know Before You Go

The Children's Bell Tower is just off Highway 1 in Bodega Bay. Just pull of the road at the Bodega Bay Community Center, park the car in the parking lot and walk along the path to the tower.

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