Mid-America Transplant candlelight memorial sparks talk of donor monument in Chesterfield
By: Sheila Frayne Rhoades
Nearly 1,000 people were on hand Aug. 30 when Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS) held its annual candlelight memorial ceremony honoring organ and tissue donors and their families. The emotionally moving ceremony took place in Highlands Park, which is located adjacent to the MTS office.
At the centerpiece of the park is a donor memorial monument – a bronze, bas-relief sculpture created in 2009 by Chesterfield sculptor Don Wiegand. The piece depicts transplant recipients raising lit candles in lasting tribute to their donors. The sculpture is backed by large blocks of stone and marble and surrounded by a serene reflecting pool.
MTS President & CEO Dean F. Kappel, a Chesterfield resident, said the monument “honors the selfless act of giving life to another through organ and tissue donation.”
Wiegand said he hopes that when people see the sculpture, “they will see the depth of giving that is possible through organ and tissue donations.”
“The outstretched hands reaching upward holding candles acknowledge the lives of all those who gave the gift of life to so many,” he said.
Many of those attending the candlelight memorial had a poignant story to tell. Among them was Jack Scharr, president of Fine Art. Ltd. in Chesterfield.
“Organ donations save thousands of lives in our country,” Scharr said. “Recently, my own niece died in a fire, and her parents, Rex and Bobby Petersen of Alton (Ill.), worked with MTS to donate their daughter’s organs. The result was that seven people’s lives were saved.”
Scharr, who is a friend of Wiegand, said he would like to have a smaller version of the monument erected in Chesterfield.
“I would like to get the city (of Chesterfield) behind organ donation,” Scharr said. “My idea is to replicate one of the figures from Don’s sculpture, possibly the young boy on the end, and place it on the levee wall or in downtown Chesterfield. It would include a plaque dedicated to organ donors and encourage those much needed organ donations. … My hope is that Chesterfield Arts will be part of and support the project. The project would be totally funded through private donations.”
Chesterfield Arts Executive Director Stacey Morse said she liked the idea.
“The candlelight ceremony was a beautiful event,” Morse said. “The memorial is very inspiring and promotes such an important cause. I like the idea of some form of it being accessible in Chesterfield if at all possible.”
Bob Spencer, of Ballwin, said he and his wife would be in favor also of having a small version of the donor memorial placed in West County.
“We believe the more people who can see it, the better,” Spencer said. “We got involved with MTS after 1997. Our daughter Dana, who attended Parkway South at the time, died in a car accident, and we agreed to donate her organs. Over the years we, have volunteered for a number of events. When Mid-America wanted to put together this memorial, we were asked to be on the design committee. We are extremely happy with the donor memorial and its park setting. It would be nice to have a smaller version of it closer to home.”