Gift of Life honors organ donation champions for life-saving work

Gift of Life Michigan logo

Ann Arbor, Mich. – Gift of Life recognized five Michigan residents for their outstanding work in promoting organ, eye and tissue donation at the 42nd annual Gift of Life Foundation meeting Thursday.

Gift of Life, Michigan’s only full-service organ recovery organization, is an intermediary between donors and hospitals when a donation occurs. It also works with the Secretary of State to manage the state’s Organ Donor Registry. The Gift of Life Foundation, a separate organization, supports Gift of Life’s mission. It provides financial help for transplant recipients in need, gives research grants and helps pay for programs that promote organ and tissue donation.

These award winners are dedicated to helping save and improve lives through their outstanding work and advocacy in organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation. Five Michigan residents were honored for their work:

• Robert Hoag, lung recipient, Delta Township, posthumously: Bob Hoag was diagnosed in 2005 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a degenerative lung disease and in 2008 he received a life-saving lung transplant at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Bob and his wife, Jan, knew they had to give back. They began volunteering to register new donors at events in and around the Lansing area. They went to health fairs, hospital donor drives, Kiwanis clubs, the St. Johns Mint Festival and the Lansing Area Plus Secretary of State office in Delta Township. In all – they registered more than 2,000 new donors. In an excerpt from a 2010 email to Gift of Life Michigan, Bob wrote: “As I went to events, I found if you are doing something you really believe in, it’s fun. And if there is an opportunity to reach even one person to become a donor, we felt we needed to be there.” Bob died on March 20, 2013, and he left a legacy of reaching thousands of others through his tireless work to help save lives.

• Mary Johnson, hospital liaison. St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor: Mary Johnson has worked with Gift of Life Michigan in her capacity as a liaison for donation with St. Joseph Mercy for 28 years. She has been an unfailing advocate for donation, helping hundreds of patients and their families fulfill wishes to save lives. Mary also helped her hospital earn an organ donation Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in every year except one since the award’s inception in 2005.

• Steve and Heather Baldwin of Port Huron: In 1995, Steve and Heather Baldwin’s 11-year-old son, Dan, received a liver transplant and they had the opportunity to meet his donor’s family. To help give back, the Baldwins visit their local Secretary of State branch office several times a week, as well all five branches in Michigan’s Thumb region each month. They’ve made 400 trips in all and have helped register nearly 10,000 new organ and tissue donors over the past three years.

• Beckie Hoppe, RN at Hurley Medical Center in Flint: Since 2006, nurse Beckie Hoppe, has helped Hurley Medical Center and Gift of Life Michigan save 298 lives through organ donation. Those lives were saved by the gifts of 96 donors – some of whom she personally cared for. Beckie helped the hospital win multiple Medals of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including a silver medal in 2012. Beckie also worked for years to honor Hurley donors with a memorial wall, and oversaw its installation as the first of its kind in Michigan. Beckie, the hospital’s primary donation liaison from 1998 until this year, retired from Hurley in September to take a position at the University of Michigan, where she continues to help others through stroke data and research.

More than 400,000 people have joined Donor Registry so far in 2013. Of the state’s 10 million residents, more than 3.3 million (33 percent ) are registered donors. To sign up, go to or ask at any Secretary of State branch office to place your name on the state database. For more information or to join the Donor Registry by phone, call 1.800.482.4881.

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