Donor Family Honors Donors at Holiday of Lights
Posted December 11, 2017 in Donor Family News
Rhonda Robert knows how difficult the holidays can be without a loved one. She experienced her first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her 15-year-old son Kaden in 2014 after an accidental shooting in June took his life. Rhonda and her husband, Aaron, navigate those holidays without Kaden because of support – shown through love, compassion and encouragement – from her family and friends in Benton, Missouri. They also found solace in knowing Kaden saved five lives through organ donation.
This season, she was inspired to create an organ and tissue donor memorial for donor families in southeast Missouri by honoring their loved ones at the Holiday of Lights display at Cape County Parks. “I wanted to help families through the holidays,” Rhonda said. “Our family has been supported tremendously by other family members doing special things for us to get through the holidays. We’ve been blessed with a big family. But I know not all families have that nor have the means to do something like this. It was important to help those donor families, even in some small way like this. Hopefully, it helps them get through the holidays a little easier knowing they’ve honored their loved one and their loved one hasn’t been forgotten.”
The display includes a green ribbon, a small Donate Life-themed Christmas tree and a banner with the display’s theme: “Give the gift that can’t be found under the tree, the Gift of Life.” The display started with a dozen names of donors of families Rhonda knew. Inspired by Rhonda’s desire to support other families, Mid-America Transplant offered to spread the word to donor families in southeast Missouri. Today, more than 40 names are included in the display. Cape County Parks estimates more than 30,000 vehicles visit the Holiday of Lights annually.
“I am very pleased and overwhelmed by the response,” Rhonda said. “We are so grateful for the participation and requests to honor donors here from southeast Missouri during this holiday season. My goal for the upcoming years would be to outgrow our current 30-foot display. My hope is that donor families can join together to create displays that would honor their loved one, while providing families emotional support and comfort from individuals that share a commonality.”
Kaden’s cousin, Miranda Schlosser, presented the idea to Rhonda in 2016. “Miranda wanted to create a display for Kaden. Since it’s Cape Co. Park, I thought we needed to honor other local donors and donor families. I think people here want a way to honor their loved ones, they just didn’t know how to do that yet.”
“I just felt in my heart that this is something the community needed and wanted,” Rhonda said. “I’m very blessed that Miranda wanted to honor Kaden this way. I just felt like it was more than Kaden. It’s about all the donors in our area and how to support all of those families to make a difference.”