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Candlelight "Honor Walk" at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children raises awareness about organ donations

St. Christopher's Hospital for Children holds "Honor Walk" to raise awareness about organ donations
St. Christopher's Hospital for Children holds "Honor Walk" to raise awareness about organ donations 02:14

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- April is recognized as National Donate Life Month. It's a time dedicated to increasing awareness about the critical need for organ donations.

On Tuesday evening, families of children who died and whose organs were donated, along with members of the St. Christopher's Hospital for Children's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Transplant Team, gathered for a candlelight "Honor Walk" around the hospital's patient drop-off circle.

The solemn ceremonial walk symbolizes the moment a donor is taken to the operating room and expresses gratitude to donor families who gave the ultimate gift of life by choosing organ donation.

"It's not easy but really fulfilling in the end," said Diana Colonna, who is the director of nursing for the PICU at St. Christopher's.

Families also planted a garden of solar-powered, illuminated butterflies. Each is a tribute to the children whose donated organs have saved lives.

Gloria Velazquez-Julius' son, Lorenzo Velazquez, died in 2017. The 19-year-old was riding his bike home when he was struck by a speeding car in North Philadelphia.

The driver kept going and, unfortunately, Lorenzo Velazquez died.

"We always called him the giver," Gloria Velazquez-Julius said. "He used to take pieces of bikes and put them together to give to kids so they could play safely. And he used to take groups of kids off the streets and get them involved in biking."

Two years before Lorenzo Velazquez's death, Gloria Velazquez-Julius was sick with thyroid cancer; a battle that inspired their entire family, to become organ donors.  

In hindsight, Gloria Velazquez-Julius said that decision turned out to be a gift of healing in her time of grieving her son.  

"Knowing that my son's organs saved another parent's child," she said, has given her hope.

"Organs can go to infants, toddlers, children, adults, elderly," Colonna said. 

Lorenzo Velazquez's organs saved the lives of four children and two adults.

"His legacy didn't stop when he died," Gloria Velazquez-Julius said. "It continues within their lives and I'm praying every day that they strive and make the best of this world."

Nationally, more than 1,900 children received lifesaving transplants in 2023, matched from nearly 900 pediatric organ donors. Currently, there are more than 2,100 children on the national transplant waiting list. More than 500 children waiting for a donor organ are between 1 and 5 years old.

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