Legacy of Life Hawai'i Celebrates 30 Years of Honoring Hawaii's Organ Donor Heroes

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Lives bonded by organ and tissue donation

Donor remembrance ceremony butterfly release

Donor families release over a hundred butterflies at Legacy of Life Hawaii’s Donor Remembrance Ceremony.

Our desire is to give hope to others along their healing journey—Cherilyn Rabago

To celebrate 30 years of honoring Hawaii’s organ donor heroes, two families will be reunited commemorating the 10th anniversary of their loved one’s life-saving organ donation at the annual Legacy of Life Hawai'i Donor Remembrance Ceremony at Ko‘olau Ballrooms in Kaneohe. The event also marks the 30th anniversary of Legacy of Life Hawai‘i, an organization founded in 1987 to serve the people of Hawaii through organ, eye and tissue donation and transplant.

Ten years ago, Dusty Rapoza, a young man of 17 years, passed away suddenly on the Big Island and was flown to Oahu where his family made the difficult decision to donate his organs, giving others another chance at life. This Saturday, the Rapoza ohana will be reunited with Cherilyn Rabago, the young mother from Waipahu who received Dusty’s kidney and pancreas. The two families will share this reunion with more than 100 other local Hawaii families who have been directly touched by donation.

“Our desire is to give hope to others along their healing journey,” said Rabago.

The Donor Remembrance Ceremony honors and celebrates local organ and tissue donors, provides support for grieving families and gives transplant recipients an opportunity to say, ‘thank you’ for their second chance at life.

Also to be unveiled at the event are the Donor Remembrance Quilts displaying squares created by donor families honoring their loved ones. Each square is made of photos, mementos and keepsakes of each organ and tissue donor to highlight the uniqueness of the individual. Year after year, the quilts reflect the healing love of the donor families, a display that is lovingly stitched together by the team of Legacy of Life Hawai’i volunteers and staff.

At the Quilt Pinning Ceremony families share a memory, describe how the design was chosen and/or share a poem on the story square. The pinning ceremony is significant because families give the square to Legacy of Life Hawai‘i, entrust it into their care after having invested their love and energy into creating it. This is symbolic, as these same families had entrusted their loved ones into the care of Legacy of Life Hawai‘i in order for donation to have occurred.

The event will conclude with the Monarch Butterfly Release. when 140 monarch butterflies are released in honor and in memory of Hawaii’s organ, tissue and eye donors. Each donor family receives one monarch butterfly, symbolizing the renewed that hope their loved ones gave to the many transplant recipients by consenting to organ and tissue donation.

The butterfly symbolizes hope, rebirth, peace and emergence from darkness into a new life, which is similar to a family’s experience of grief. Families at the time of the darkness of grief, somehow find the strength to give the gift of donation. Many families consider the releasing of the butterfly to be a releasing of the spirit, or a way to send a message or wish to their loved one on the butterfly’s wings. Families find much comfort when the butterflies linger - find a place to rest on a lei or nearby flower - families often express a sense that their loved one is near.

Legacy of Life Hawai'i is a nonprofit organization and the only organization in Hawai'i federally designated to recover organs and tissue for transplant. Founded in 1987 to serve the people of Hawaii, Legacy of Life Hawai‘i’s mission is to save and enhance lives through recovering organs and tissue for transplant, encourage organ donation through community outreach and education, and honor and support organ donors and their families. Legacy of Life Hawai‘i works closely with our island hospitals to cultivate an understanding in our diverse communities that life is worth giving.

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Tiffany Wienand (808) 368-8744

Nancy Downes
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