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Published on December 11, 2014

Avera’s own “Wall of Heroes” honors organ and tissue donors

SIOUX FALLS (Dec. 11, 2014) – Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center recently dedicated its new “Wall of Heroes,” honoring those individuals and their families who made the courageous choice of organ and tissue donation.

The Wall of Heroes is actually two video screens in “Heritage Hall,” the curved hallway leading from the lobby of Avera McKennan that tells Avera McKennan’s story in pictures and displays.

For six months of the year, from October through December and April through June, the Wall of Heroes will be on display.

The screens show a photo and short biography of the donors whose families have chosen to honor them this way. Families so far have submitted approximately 100 photos and stories.

Among donors recognized on the Wall of Heroes is Andrea Cleveland of Corsica, S.D., who died Nov. 1, 2011, at age 16 of injuries sustained in a car accident. Her parents, Jeff and Marlene, honored Andrea's decision to be an organ and tissue donor, which she had proudly marked on her driver's license. Andrea's gifts of organ donation saved the lives of five people, and her gifts of tissue donation benefited people across the country. "I am so proud of her for doing this," said her mother Marlene. "The accident was going to happen whether she marked 'donor' or not. If she hadn't signed up, those people would have gone through the same thing we went through. Because of Andrea, they made it."

A number of hospitals across the United States have “donor walls.” Yet a wall display provides only limited space, and doesn’t provide enough space for changing exhibits or the story behind a name and a face.

Each year, Avera McKennan employees raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Employee Giving Campaign.  A portion of these funds go toward the “Pay it Forward” grant program. Avera staff can write a grant application, and receive funds to purchase equipment or launch a program to benefit our patients and their families.

Avera’s transplant staff wrote a “Pay it Forward” grant for a local Wall of Heroes. Rather than a static exhibit, they decided upon the novel approach of a video display.

In 1993, Avera was a pioneer in this region with the first kidney transplant program in the Dakotas. In 2003, the solid organ transplant program was expanded to add pancreas transplant, and a liver transplant program is underway. The Avera Transplant Institute along with the Avera Cancer Institute oversee the Dakotas’ only bone marrow transplant program as well. A total of more than 1,100 transplants have been performed.

“Avera transplant surgeons have not only extended life, they have given many patients an improved quality of life. Yet it would not be possible if not for the generous hearts of individuals who are willing to be organ donors,” said Dave Kapaska, DO, Regional President and CEO of Avera McKennan.

Avera partners with LifeSource in the organ donation process. Along with the dedication of the Wall of Heroes on Dec. 9, Avera presented LifeSource with a check for $10,000 as a community benefit donation.

LifeSource presented Avera McKennan with its Workplace for Life award, in recognition of activities that raise awareness for organ donation.

One donor can save up to 60 lives through organ and tissue donation. Individuals who wish to signify their desire to be an organ donor should have this marked on their driver’s license, and speak to their closest family members, should this decision need to be made in the event of their death. To learn more about organ and tissue donation, please visit

To learn more about transplant services at Avera, go to

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