Donor families ‘truly a blessing’ at Candlelight Memorial
Posted September 1, 2011
Kim Killian knows she’s alive and well today because of donor families like those that attended the Candlelight Memorial Ceremony hosted by Mid-America Transplant Services on August 30 at the Highlands Park.
A kidney recipient at Saint Louis University Hospital, she wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to thank those families at the event to honor organ and tissue donors and their families.
“I want to touch the hearts of families to let them know how precious, and how much it means … that they are truly a blessing,” Killian said. “I want them to know how much we thank them. This is for them. I wanted to be a part of this to show my appreciation and gratitude.”
Killian was among eight recipients who gave roses to more than 100 donor families in attendance on a warm night in a touching moment during the hour-long ceremony attended by more than 750 people.
We need to honor those who gave their life because I wouldn’t have her here if someone hadn’t done that,” Stacy Chilese said of her daughter, Jamie, who received a heart at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 2009. “I loved how recipients gave flowers to the donor families. That was awesome.”
Shortly after emcee Tom O’Neal began reading the names of donors, sprinkles fell from a sky that grew darker throughout the evening.
“Those were tears of joy that came down at the right time,” said Darren Gill, a heart recipient from Barnes Jewish Hospital who also participated in the rose distribution. “As people were crying, those were tears from the donors crying, rejoicing.”
The meaning of the night wasn’t lost on the younger recipients either. Five-year-old Gracie Greenhoff, who started kindergarten this week about four years after receiving a kidney at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, handed out flowers while remembering her Uncle Adam.
“We lost my brother – he was 21 – on Christmas Eve of 2003,” said Gracie’s mother, Jenn. “So we’ve talked to her about Uncle Adam, and she knows that he died in a car accident. So we’ve told her that families like Uncle Adam’s, we give them flowers to honor them and let them know they’re not forgotten.”
The evening concluded with a remarkable and dramatic scene of the 750-person crowd each holding a lit candle and raising it, a mirror image of the Donor Memorial Monument behind the stage. Both the raised candles and the monument are remembrances of those who gave the Gift of Life.
In the southwest corner of the park, tables with candles decorated in memory of donors stayed lit despite the windy conditions. The hundreds of decorated candles created a stunning visual opposite the stage.
The inaugural Candlelight Memorial Ceremony was a collaborative event between MTS and the St. Louis areas four transplant centers: Barnes Jewish Hospital, Saint Louis University Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
”This is a blessing that we can come together, share resources, meet at the table and look forward to what we can do for other people and honor the donor,” SLUH chaplain Marilyn Lott said.
The event also gave medical professionals a more complete picture of the donation process.
“I’m fortunate that I reside on the side that puts healthy organs into sick people to make them better, and it’s easy to overlook what sacrifices and gifts these people have made,” said Gene Ridolfi, director of Barnes-Jewish’s Organ Transplant Center. “It was very touching and very moving, and I feel very fortunate to be here.”