Oakwood to honor those who provide Gift of Life with unique donor wall

Robin Kulwicki’s brother passed away in 2009, but his heart is beating on in the chest of a complete stranger.

She said she received a letter from the recipient recently that let her know that the decision to donate his organs was the right one.

“You have to try to find some good in it,” she said of her brother’s death. “You’re saving a single person, but how many people around that person are you helping, too? You’re keeping someone in someone’s life: their children or grandchildren. It’s not just about one person.”

Her brother, in fact, saved three lives with donated kidneys, liver and heart. His ultimate gift has helped as many as 75 more through donated bone, skin, tendons and corneas. Now, Oakwood Healthcare wants to make sure organ donors are honored through a special display at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC). A fundraising effort is under way to create a memorial wall unlike any other.

“Every day, unspoken heroes give their final gift; a gift that saves lives, helps the blind see and gives new hope to countless people,” said Teresa DalZot, Oakwood’s liaison to the Gift of Life, Michigan. “Organ, tissue and cornea donation show the unwavering compassion and selflessness of people in the face of loss and tragedy. Families donate—or honor the decision made by their loved one to become a donor—in a time of profound grief. We want to honor those people.”

The memorial will be located within OHMC near the Frank C. and Mary T. Padzieski interfaith Sanctuary. The first of its kind in southeast Michigan, the memorial will be a unique artistic centerpiece that will provide a place for families and their loved ones to gather, reflect and heal.

The project has been in the planning stages for more than three years, during which time the hospital solicited proposals from artists throughout Michigan before deciding on one submitted by award winning artist Tony Bellomo entitled: ‘A New Dawn.’ It will feature individual glass doves that will be enshrined in lighted glass, subtly expressing the spirit of the dove in an elegant, calming and spiritual manner. The family of each organ donor will receive a matching dove engraved with their loved one’s name, at a special ceremony.

“The dove, a universal symbol of love, peace and unity, will be the theme for the wall,” said DalZot. “This symbol is a subtle yet powerful reminder of the unifying power of donation, which touches everyone regardless of age, ethnicity or religion.”

Dedications to tissue and cornea donors will occur in another area within the memorial, along with information about donation in English, Spanish and Arabic.
This artistic tribute will be funded entirely by grants and individual donations and more help is needed. To make a donation, email DalZot at dalzott@oakwood.org or contact the Oakwood Foundation at 313-586-5234.