Nearly seven years ago, after she learned of her son, Byron’s, sudden death from a gunshot wound Orkiya Andrews found hope in the darkness of tragedy – an opportunity for Byron’s legacy to live on through organ donation. Thanks to a selfless act of generosity, Byron saved six lives through organ donation and improved many more as a tissue donor.

Tree of Life
Image/LifeLink of Florida

On Thursday, Byron’s legacy, along with the stories of others impacted by donation, will begin to touch Hillsborough County residents in a unique way with the unveiling of the Tree of Life at the Tax Collector’s Office’s in East Tampa. The Tree of Life is a permanent, visual dedication to organ, tissue and eye donation for clients who visit the office and staff who work there. By saying “yes” when asked “Are you interested in becoming an organ donor?” while receiving or renewing a driver license, customers can designate their desire to be a lifesaver, like Byron. Orkiya Andrews will attend the April 6th event and assist Honorable Doug Belden, Hillsborough County Tax Collector, with revealing the Tree of Life artwork to the general public.

The Tree of Life is filled with leaves, each leaf symbolic of the more than 103,000 customers who registered as an organ and tissue donor in 2016 through the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office. The Tax Collector’s office is proud that approximately 55% of customers who are asked by staff to join Florida’s organ, tissue and eye donor registry do so, compared with a statewide average of 49%.

One organ donor can potentially save the lives of eight people, and improve the lives of dozens more through tissue donation.  Donation, with the primary exception of living kidney donation, occurs after death and deciding to register as a donor does not impact medical care should a donor become ill or injured in an accident.  People of all ages can choose to donate and help others in need, and donation is supported by all major religions as a personal choice and act of generosity.  Donation places no financial burden on the donor’s family.

Contact LifeLink of Florida for more information. LifeLink of Florida is a non-profit community service organization dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissues for transplantation.  To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org.

Related: April marks National Donate Life Month