On Friday, April 14 Southeast Missouri State University and Mid-America Transplant came together for a groundbreaking on the River Campus terraces, preparing for a special memorial that will toast the campus and toast those who have donated life.
On a fittingly beautiful day, people gathered to hear about the sculpture that will grace the grounds. Giving the details was artist Don Wiegand, who will be designing the memorial for Southeast and Mid-America.
Wiegand was inspired at a candle light vigil in St. Louis in 2004, where he witnessed donor families remembering their loved ones and the lives they saved.
"This particular sculpture honors donor families, with the recipients toasting life," Wiegand said. "The boy will be toasting the Mississippi River and the family behind him will be toasting campus."
Since 1986, Mid-America Transplant has had 279 organ donors throughout the Midwest who have helped save nearly 800 lives. Adding to those impressive numbers, over 108,000 lives across the Midwest have been impacted by tissue donors.
"We know it's a tough decision, but we hope it gives families peace knowing that their loved ones' lives will continue on with others," said Kevin Lee, CEO of Mid-America Transplant.
Southeast and Mid-America Transplant have a special partnership and rich history together. In 2012, student athlete Meg Herndon was in an accident and passed away. Her family made the decision to donate her organs, introducing campus to the importance of organ donation. In 2018, an official partnership between Mid-America and SEMO Athletics began.
Mid-America helped advance the Department of Nursing with grant funding that developed curriculum focused on organ and tissue donation. In fall of 2024, MidAmerica will offer scholarships to Southeast nursing students.
The new memorial at River Campus will be a testament to the relationship between Southeast and Mid-America and serve as a monument to all the families who have made the choice to help save lives through organ donation.
"Groundbreakings are an important part of the University because it is the start of something new," said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president at Southeast. "What isn't new is the partnership we have with Mid-America Transplant. This memorial is to honor all those who have donated life in our region."