News Detail

Ceremony Honors Organ Donors, Recipients


Organ/tissue donors, recipients and their families were honored with a ceremony Wednesday on the Springfield Memorial Hospital campus.

Officials with Memorial Health, HSHS Illinois, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network gathered to commemorate organ/tissue donors and recipients and to encourage more Illinoisans to register to become donors. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder also spoke at the event.

“Each inspiring transplant story begins with the generosity of a donor,” said Ed Curtis, president and CEO of Memorial Health. Curtis began his nursing career in the Springfield Memorial Hospital transplant program, which was established in 1972 and is now named in honor of pioneering surgeon Dr. Alan G. Birtch. About 25 kidney transplant procedures each year are performed through the Alan G. Birtch, MD, Center for Transplant Services at Memorial.

“We are proud to partner with Gift of Hope to coordinate transplants and raise awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation,” said Curtis.

Wednesday’s ceremony coincides with National Donate Life Month, observed each year in April. As many as 25 people can benefit from a single organ or tissue donor, said Harry Wilkins, MD, president and CEO of Gift of Hope, a non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) that coordinates organ and tissue donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana.

“As we celebrate this community during National Donate Life Month, we remind everyone that it is so important to register as an organ, tissue and eye donor and discuss these wishes with your family,” said Wilkins. “Since 1986, we have worked with more than 10,000 families to provide more than 30,000 organs for transplants and we’ve coordinated with many tens of thousands of people who donated bone, skin and other tissue to help recipients heal and regain mobility and independence.”

“Gift of Hope’s mission to save and enhance as many lives as possible through organ and tissue donation aligns with the mission of Hospital Sisters Health System,” said Polly Hohenbery, a registered nurse and Gift of Hope hospital liaison and director of adult critical care services at HSHS St. John’s Hospital. “Without the donor, there is no story, no hope, no transplant, but when there is a donor, life springs from death, sorrow turns to hope and a terrible loss becomes a gift.”

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said his family personally experienced the generosity of an organ donor when his sister received a kidney prior to White being elected Secretary of State in 1998. Since then, White has used his sister’s experience to promote organ donation through his office’s Life Goes On Organ and Tissue Donor Program, which has grown to include 7.3 million registered donors, White said.

“I encourage every Illinoisan to give someone a second chance at life by registering to become an organ/tissue donor,” he said.

Nearly 4,700 people in Illinois are on the organ/tissue transplant waiting list. More than 300 Illinoisans die each year waiting for an organ transplant.

To become an organ/tissue donor, visit, call the Secretary of State’s Organ/Tissue Donor Program at 800-210-2106 or visit any driver services facility.