Tree of Life honours organ donors & recognizes the generosity behind the decision to give the gift of life

The Tree of Life is coming home to HSC Winnipeg and putting down roots.

“We are here to celebrate the arrival of the Tree of Life and our hope is that more people to see it and understand what each leaf represents,” said Linda Kyrzyk, a mom to Leanne who became an organ donor. “I encourage everyone to take the time to talk about organ donation with their families. This was not something we ever thought we needed to talk about, but knowing that others have a chance to live and enjoy life makes this decision a reality.”

For the past 20 years Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life has recognized those who have offered life-saving organs either through living or deceased donation to another by creating a leaf inscribed with the individual’s name and having it placed on the Tree of Life.

Every year, the leaves join all the others in an ever-expanding crown of generosity during a special event designed for donor families and living donors. Serving as a symbol of strength and new beginnings, the Tree of Life was originally unveiled in 1997 during National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. Since then, it has continued gathering the names of those who have given the ultimate gift.

“The Tree of Life is a beautiful way of honouring every Manitoban who has said yes to organ donation,” said Reg Helwer, MLA for Brandon West. “This is a wonderful tradition and we are so proud it is now permanently displayed for all to see.”

“Having the Tree of Life available for families as well as the public to interact with any time they wish makes this tribute to organ donation that much more meaningful,” said Lori Lamont, Acting COO and VP, Nursing and Health Professionals, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The original Tree had outgrown its capacity, so to mark the 20th anniversary of the Tree and to accommodate donor leaves for years to come, a new tree was created by a Manitoba artist, Audrey Hiebert with leaves designed by another local artist, Beth Gage.

“Each leaf is a tribute to someone who offered the gift of life to another in need,” said Dr. Adrian Robertson, Transplant Manitoba’s Gift of Life medical director. “The Tree gives all of us the opportunity to honour organ donors and reflect on the generosity and hope organ donation offers both to families and to recipients.”

The Tree of Life is located near the hospital’s 700 William Ave. entrance. Its crown of over 1,300 leaves recognizes all Manitoban organ donors since 1969. Supported by so many, the Tree now lives at HSC Winnipeg thanks to financial donations made to the Transplant Manitoba trust fund, including financial support from the friends and family of Leanne.

Those who have offered life-saving organs to others either through living or deceased donation, also have a flag raised in their honour. Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life introduced the Gift of Life flag last year. The flag is raised at the corner of Sherbrook St and McDermot Ave after every organ donation opportunity. Since it was first raised in June 2016, the flag has flown nearly 50 times in honour of donors.