Gift of Hope recognizes community leaders

Gift of Hope closed out its National Minority Awareness Week activities a little differently this year by recognizing those professionals and families who have committed to saving and improving the lives of others.  The Organ and Tissue Donor Network honored contributors with the Heroes for Hope: Real-Life Lifesavers award.

“Everyday heroes are seldom recognized for their important contributions,” said Kevin Cmunt, Gift of Hope’s president/CEO. “Our Real-Life Lifesavers Award honors many of these people who, like us, are committed to saving and improving the lives of the people in our communities.”

Some of the honorees included: Northwestern Memorial Hospital Director of Hispanic Transplant Program Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo; Chicago Police Department 12th District’s CAPS Sergeant Juan Clas; Latino Family Conflict Resolution Consultant Belitza Contreras; Misión San Juan Diego Church Pastor Rev. Claudio Díaz Jr.; US Marine Veteran Corporal Israel Dominguez; and others.

Top city and local officials, including the General Consul of Mexico in Chicago Carlos Martín Jiménez Macías and Alderman for Chicago’s 26th Ward Roberto Maldonado attended the ceremony.

During the occasion, two Hispanic families received special recognition for their contribution to saving lives through organ donation. One of them was the family of Luis Ángel Pérez (18), who died from a gang-related shooting. “I’ve suffered from the roughest criticism, because of Ángel’s issues. But all coins have two sides and even though I know he did not choose the right path in life, he was a good man and he wanted to be give life through organ donation,” said Cetila Portugal, Luis’ mother.

Gift of Hope also awarded the Arias family, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Brianna as a result of a car accident in 2002. The tragedy motivated her parents to create a community-based organization in Brianna’s memory to help kids by providing a place for them to play soccer.

Gift of Hope offered the donation flag as a special acknowledgment to both donor families, as well as to the family of Elfego Arroyo, a true warrior for life who recently lost his battle against a rare genetic disease from which his two brothers also suffer. “We don’t realize the importance of becoming an organ donor until we are in someone else’s shoes who is in need of a transplant. My brother had the opportunity to receive a second chance in life, but there are many people in our community still waiting for that chance. Don’t prevent them from getting this new opportunity. Become an organ donor,” said Lorenzo Arroyo, Elfego’s brother who is currently waiting for a liver transplant.

The award ceremony also served as the official launching of the new “Heroes and Heroines for Hope” campaign, aimed at engaging public personalities and community leaders to support organ and tissue donation.

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