Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare dedicated a new garden in honor of loved ones who were organ, tissue and cornea donors on Aug. 26.
The garden is outside of the Allen-Calder entrance at the St. Luke’s campus, 1656 Champlin Ave., Utica.
The Donate Life Garden seeks to raise awareness of organ, tissue and cornea donation in an effort to help the more than 100,000 patients currently waiting for a life-saving transplant in the United States. According to the Donate Life America’s National Donor Designation Report Card, New York ranks 48th among the 50 states for the total number of designated donors as a percentage of all state residents.
The initiative to create the garden was led by John Weakley, a heart transplant recipient and greeter at FSLH.
After attending the dedication of a similar garden in Albany, Weakley went to work raising more than $3,000 to create the one at FSLH.
The project has personal meaning for Weakley, who in 1992 was on the United Network for Organ Sharing waiting list after suffering two heart attacks before the age of 55. He waited four months and on Aug. 9, 1992, he received a heart thanks to the kindness and generosity of a family who had lost a loved one. Twenty-one years later, he continues to celebrate life and acknowledge the gift he was given by his donor and the family.
After his transplant, Weakley committed himself to raising awareness for organ, tissue and cornea donation in the Mohawk Valley.
“You know what they say about real estate — location, location, location,” he said. “For us, it’s all about awareness, awareness, awareness. I wish everyone waiting for a transplant would get one and be as fortunate as I am.”
Several plaques in the Donate Life Garden recognize members of the FSLH family who gave the gift of life and sight, including long-time employee Dave Stedman.
His wife, Rosemary, finds comfort in visiting the campus and witnessing how his legacy is being honored through the Donate Life Garden.
To request a plaque in honor of a loved one who was an organ, tissue or cornea donor, call 624-6142 or send a written request to the Faxton St. Luke’s Volunteer Association, attention John Weakley, 1656 Champlin Ave., Utica, New York 13502. Individuals who are interested in organ, tissue and cornea donation may enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry by visiting www.nyhealth.gov. Monetary donations for the Donate Life Garden fund may be sent to the Faxton St. Luke’s Volunteer Association, 1656 Champlin Ave., Utica, New York 13052. Checks should be made payable to FSLH Volunteer Association and note it is for the Donate Life Garden.