Gift of Life Award ceremony honors organ donors from 2016

Governor Bullock, LCNW CEO Kevin O’Connor, and donor families at the Montana Governor’s Gift of Life Award

Each year, we have the honor of collaborating with the Governor’s office in both Washington and Montana to host the Governor’s Gift of Life Award (GOLA) ceremony. GOLA was established to recognize and honor organ donors from each state from the year prior whose selfless gift of life gave others a second chance at life. Held in collaboration with National Donate Life Month in April, families and loved ones of the donors are invited to attend their corresponding Capitols in Olympia, WA and Helena, MT to attend the event with the Governor, LifeCenter staff, and other state leaders and legislators.

Having recently lost their loved ones, GOLA gives families an opportunity to connect with others in their donation community, and reflect on the impact their loved ones made through organ donation. Each family is presented with a certificate from the Governor recognizing their loved ones generous and heroic gift of life.

In both Washington and Montana, the day begins with a rose in which donor families can write a personalized message of love, hope, and remembrance to their loved one. A rose is a symbol of love, loss, and renewal and parallels the emotions families might be going through with the recent passing of their loved ones.

Governor Jay Inslee with the family of Seattle organ donor Kelly Donovan

Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, shared his gratitude with the families in the room for the ultimate act of kindness their loved ones gave, and even shared his own connection to donation as a recipient father. His son’s sight was restored because of someone’s generosity in donating their corneas. Governor Inslee understands firsthand how meaningful organ donation is. Inslee’s powerful message to the families in the room was a moving testament to the legacies their loved ones have left and the hope they have given to their recipients.

In Montana, Governor Steve Bullock also touched hearts of the families in attendance. Governor Bullock spoke to generosity of Montanans and also shared his own personal connection to donation as a friend of his was being honored with the award this year. Montana families were also able to view the Tree of Life, a sculpture created by Belgrade artist Jim Dolan to honor organ donors from the state. The tree is comprised of leaves engraved with the name of organ donors honored with the Governor’s Gift of Life Award since its inception in 2014. The tree is displayed in the State Capitol annually during month April in support of National Donate Life Month.

Engraved leaf on the Tree of Life in Montana

Also in attendance at both ceremonies were the Montana Motor Vehicle Department and the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). Montana and Washington are first and third, respectively, in the nation with 87 and 90 percent of state residents over the age of 18 registered to be organ and tissue donors. The high donor designation shares in these states is largely attributed to the DOL and MVD’s incredible efforts to encourage individuals to register as organ donors.

We are thankful for everyone who made these two events so special: Governor Inslee and Governor Bullock, the Washington DOL, Montana Motor Vehicle Department, LCNW staff and volunteers, Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank, ServeMontana, and most importantly the donor families; their personal stories of hope in the midst of loss continue to inspire us daily.