Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network and Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago unveiled and dedicated the donation-themed Give Hope – Give Life outdoor wall mural at a Nov. 14 ceremony. The mural is designed to raise community awareness of organ and tissue donation and honor the individuals and family members who have offered the gift of life through donation.

Community residents, elected officials, Gift of Hope representatives and special guests attended the highly anticipated reveal and dedication of the mural, which features monarch butterflies as its central theme to represent the hope and life that donation can offer to donors, donor families and transplant recipients.

Planning for the project, led by Jessica Rodriguez, Hospital Development Coordinator at Gift of Hope, began in late July with an open invitation to artists to submit their design ideas.

“We posted a call for design proposals on the Gift of Hope website and on social media and received creative idea submissions from so many talented artists,” Rodriguez said. “The entries were reviewed by the commission team members, and we selected a local community artist.”

That artist is John Vergara, who drew inspiration from the similarities he found between the annual migration of monarch butterflies and the donation journey.

“The monarch butterfly immediately came to mind because they travel across the world to stay alive,” said Vergara. “Similarly, those who offer the gift of donation embark on a difficult and selfless journey that ultimately helps others to continue living.”

The collaborative group that brought the donation themed mural project to life included (l-r) Edgar Burgos, Artist Assistant; Jessica Rodriguez, Gift of Hope Hospital Development Coordinator; Jacqueline Soto-Herrera, Norwegian American Hospital Manager
of Community Affairs; and John Vergara, Artist.

Vergara is a seasoned artist who has produced murals in Mexico City, New York, Miami and Chicago, but this project was unique for him in several ways. Typically, a project of this scope takes a month to complete, but an aggressive timeline and weather conditions motivated Vergara and his assistants, Edgar Burgos and Alisa Scott, to design and install it in only two weeks. This project also allowed Vergara, whose work is rich in cultural themes and nuances specific to the communities where his art is displayed, to create a different type of mural.

“It was nice to step outside of one specific culture or community,” Vergara said. “This mural symbolizes everybody, not just one culture. For me this was a way to give back to the entire neighborhood, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

The thoughtful planning, coordination and completion of the Give Hope – Give Life mural required the dedicated and collaborative effort of several participants. The unveiling itself called on the participation of donor family members and Gift of Hope and Norwegian American staff members.

“This project was very fulfilling to me personally,” Rodriguez said. “It allowed me to serve one of our donation partners in a new and creative way. Collectively, this project was a true collaboration and a reflection of our commitment to donation, our shared dedication to patient-centered care and to the communities we serve.”

Norwegian American has been a longtime supporter of donation, consistently demonstrating its commitment to offer grieving families the donation opportunity. This year alone, eight families that Gift of Hope approached for organ and tissue donation  selflessly said yes.

“This mural is a true reflection of a common vision,” said Jose Sanchez, President/ CEO of Norwegian American. “Today we stand here for life and for hope for those who made the decision to

made the decision to donate and for those who started a new life and a new journey thanks to organ and tissue donation.”

Gift of Hope President/CEO Kevin Cmunt expounded the significance, importance and benefits of donation.

Gift of Hope and Norwegian American Hospital leadership and community residents were on hand to help unveil and dedicate the Give Hope – Give Life mural. They included (l-r) Pastor Jaro Medina, New Life Covenant Church; Jose Sanchez, President/CEO, Norwegian American Hospital; Michelle Blakely, COO, Norwegian American Hospital; and Kevin Cmunt, President/CEO, Gift of Hope. donate and for those who started a new life and a new journey thanks to organ and tissue donation.”

“Organ and tissue donation offers an opportunity for us to rewrite the endings of tragic stories — to create a miracle from tragic loss — and it only happens in collaboration with our hospital partners,” said Cmunt. “These families reflect our city — different nationalities, different ages and different backgrounds. This mural project gave us the opportunity to create something that has never been done in our city to honor those families, who, on the worst day of their lives, found it in their hearts to say yes to donation and make miracles happen for those in need.”

Norwegian American is located at 1044 N. Francisco Ave. in Chicago. The external wall mural, which includes LED light installations donated by AR Electric Parts & Service, Inc. and measures approximately 15 feet high and 125 feet wide, is located on West Thomas St. where it meets Richmond S