Becoming an organ donor is as easy as checking a box on your driver's license. Just because it is a simple process to sign up, does not mean it is an easy decision or experience for loved ones. That's why the South Dakota Lions Eye and Tissue Bank is saying thank you by building a park with a purpose: honoring the men and women who gave the gift of life.
"We don't need our organs in Heaven. But we sure need them here," Dennis Van Asch, SDLETB Board of Directors member, said.
Which is why Van Asch supports organ, eye, and tissue donation as a member of the South Dakota Lions Eye and Tissue Bank Board of Directors. That is not the only reason.
"I'm a donor dad. We lost our daughter in 2001," Van Asch said. "We made a good situation out of a real bad situation by donating all her organs."
The SDLETB has broken ground on the Donor Memorial Park, which will sit right beside its Sioux Falls headquarters on West 61st Street North. The park, with its walkways, benches, and green space, will recognize Van Asch and his daughter, Donella; along with other donors and their families, as well as recipients. The SDLETB has spent years planning, and raising money, to make Donor Memorial Park a reality. Annually, the SDLETB recovers eye and tissue from more than 400 donors and provides more than 600 corneas for transplant.
"This park is a small way to say thank you, when the word thank you is not enough," Marcy Dimond, SDLETB CEO and Director of Clinical Services, said.
Dimond said the park will be a place of peace, open to everyone in the community, to remind others about the ultimate kind of selflessness. It is set for completion this Memorial Day weekend.
"Every donor family really just wants to believe the gift they're given has gone on to help someone. For many people, it's a small peace of hope in a terrible situation," Dimond said.
That bit of hope gives Van Asch, and so many others, a sense of purpose to help others.
"We need all kinds of people to donate. It's a thing that I've pushed for several years, even before we lost our daughter. I just feel it's the gift of life," Van Asch said.