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Donor Remembrance Ceremony
The Donor Remembrance Ceremony is an invitation only event attended by family members of those who have been organ, tissue or cornea donors during the previous year. The event is held to pay tribute to those we have lost and to recognize their generous gifts of life.
The ceremony begins with a welcome from Gift of Life Donor Program and then continues with several speakers, both individuals who have received the gift of life as well as donor family members. Donor family members present will hopefully find these short speeches meaningful and will gain a better understanding of how the gifts of their loved ones impacted so many.
The ceremony also includes the presentation of the Gift of Life Donor Medal. Each family is presented with a medal and lapel pins to honor their loved one. The medal was established as a remembrance for those who have helped improve the lives of others through donation, and is a keepsake for the family. Symbolically, the picture on the medal illustrates the hand of the donor to the recipient as he or she passes on the gift of life (the heart) and love (the rose). The magnitude of the gift is accentuated by the rays extending from the heart. Families are also presented with a "Wrapped in Hugs" wrap which was created by a volunteer or member of our community as an outward sign of compassion and gratitude. To learn more about the "Wrapped in Hugs" program, click here.
After the medals are distributed, Gift of Life Donor Program shows a photo tribute. The photo tribute is a photo collage consisting of pictures of loved ones who have donated. Each picture appears on a large screen for about ten seconds, along with the name of the donor. See the "Photograph" section below for more information about submitting a photograph of your loved one.
Following the ceremony, there is a reception with light snacks and beverages. This is the time for families to reflect on the ceremony, speak with other donor family members and Gift of Life Donor Program staff who are present. After an emotional ceremony, the reception can be a nice transition for families.
In addition, families are encouraged to bring a quilt square in memory of their loved one to be added to the "Threads of Love" Memorial Quilt. See the "Quilt Pinning" section below for more information about the quilt.
Invitations are mailed to families whose loved ones died in the previous year. Gift of Life Donor Program hosts five ceremonies each year and families are invited to the ceremony closest to their home. If you did not receive an invitation to the ceremony in the year after your loved one was a donor or could not attend, please contact Family Support Services at 1-800-366-6771 or via email to find out about obtaining an invitation to this year's ceremonies. Please see the "Ceremony" section below for more frequently asked questions about the event.
Do I have to pay to attend? No. There is no cost to attend the ceremony or the reception.
How long does the ceremony last? The ceremonies vary somewhat in length, depending on the number of people who attend, how many send in photos for the tribute, and the amount of quilt squares pinned during the ceremony. On average, the ceremony runs between 60 and 75 minutes.
Who should attend? Family members and close friends of the family or loved one are all welcome to attend the ceremony. Babies and children under the age of ten may have difficulty with the length and content of the ceremony. Each family member should consider how emotionally ready he or she is to take part in the ceremony. It is important to consider what is best for your family.
How many people can I invite? Because the ceremony is an intimate and private event, we recommend that only close family members attend.
Will my loved one's recipient(s) be at the ceremony? The transplant recipients at the ceremony are active volunteers who have chosen to participate as a way to say thank you to donor families. Most of the volunteers received their transplants several years ago. You will not be introduced to your loved one's recipient(s) at the ceremony.
If I don't attend the ceremony, will I still receive the medal? Yes. When you send in your RSVP card that you cannot attend, there is an option to request to have the medal sent to your home. You must return that card in order for us to mail you the medal. If you cannot attend the ceremony this year, you can also indicate on your RSVP card that you would like to receive an invitation for next year's ceremony.
What kind of photograph should I send in? It is best to send a 4x6 picture that features your loved one's face prominently. You can send a favorite picture (it doesn't need to be the most current). You can also send a photo that has other individuals in it, though you should clearly note who the donor is in the photograph. It is possible that the picture will be cropped to highlight the donor's face, so the photo may look different during the tribute. Photographs will be returned after the ceremony.
How do I send the photograph? It is best to mail in the photograph directly to Gift of Life. All photos will be returned to the family after the ceremony. You may also e-mail the photo to Family Support Services but be sure it is sent in a high resolution format (at least 300 dpi). Otherwise, the photo may appear blurry. Do not send photocopies of pictures because they will not show up well for the presentation.
Do I have to contribute a photo? No. Some families decide they are not ready to take part in the photo tribute.
If we choose not to attend, can the photograph still be included in the ceremony? Absolutely. You can submit your photographs as outlined above.
What is the quilt pinning? Each family has the option to create a quilt square in memory of their loved one. There is time before the ceremony for families to pin the square on a piece of muslin. The squares will eventually become part of the "Threads of Love" Memorial quilt.
Is it necessary for me to create a quilt square? No. Some families are not ready to make a quilt square at the time of the ceremony. Squares can be added to the quilt even years after the loved one has donated. Quilt squares are accepted year round.
How do I make a quilt square? Instructions will be included with the invitation but also can be found on our website. Click here for those instructions.
How is the quilt used? The Threads of Love Memorial Quilts are used at community outreach events at schools, houses of worships or hospitals. These beautiful displays tell the story behind donation. When not traveling to different events, the quilts are displayed prominently in our offices in Philadelphia and Hershey, PA.
Threads of Love Donor Quilt
Explore the online quilts to view the quilt squares provided by the loved ones of those who died and gave the gift of life. The actual quilts are available for display in public places throughout the region to promote donor awareness.
National Donor Sabbath, observed annually in November, seeks to educate faith-based communities about the need for organ, eye and tissue donors. Order free materials to celebrate National Donor Sabbath, taking place Nov. 13-15!