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Celebrating the final gifts of organ donors

Carter Herne.JPG
Posted at 10:00 AM, Apr 20, 2024

HELENA — At the Governor’s Gift of Life Award Ceremony organ donors from throughout the state were remembered.

Friends and family members of the deceased were given Gift of Life Awards in honor of their loved one’s final parting gifts. Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras presented the awards to their loved ones. Thirty-eight organ donors were honored.

Nearly 200 people in Montana are waiting for an organ transplant. Each donor can save 8 lives and enhance over 75 more.
Carter Herne died last August at the age of 25 after a motorcycle crash.

“He grew up in Colorado and California and then moved to Montana for college, but found his calling in carpentry and the love of the outdoors in Montana. He loved to hike and fish and hunt,” says the mother of Carter, Sonja Herne.

Carter had been an organ donor since first receiving his driver’s license. Just a week before his death he had renewed his license and renewed his decision to be an organ donor. Carter’s mother, Sonja, who instilled in him this selfless act, says that his decision is a way for him to continue to give even after passing on.

Sonja Herne.JPG

“I’d say it’s deeply touching to realize that even though that Carter's not here with us today, that those lives that were probably in a state of despair are now changed for a very long time and it's extended their lives. And so, it's a way to make, you know, something positive out of such a sad tragedy,” says Sonja.

Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras says she has 2 grandchildren who have cystic fibrosis and may one day need lung transplants.

“Well, it is one shred of joy that you can pull out of the death of a loved one, is to know that because of them, their life continues. We heard just some very heartfelt stories today. It's bittersweet. We're honoring and rejoicing in the lives of the ones we have lost as well as the lives that continue because of this gift they made,” says Juras.

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The Governor's Office of Community Service recently received approval for an outdoor memorial on the Capitol Complex to be called The Threshold of Life for families and friends to honor those who are impacted by organ donation. A model of the memorial was showcased at the event.

If you would like to become an organ donor you can either do so when you renew your license or through donatelifemt.org.