INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Every ten minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list. Right now, there are nearly 1,300 people waiting for a lifesaving transplant in Indiana.
When someone in the state receives that transplant, the Indiana Donor Network gifts the family of the donor a special shawl through its Threads of Compassion program. Volunteers throughout the state make the shawls hoping it will give a donor family some relief during a time of mourning.
According to the Indiana Donor Network, “The shawl is intended to express compassion at a moment when there are no words to say.”
Right now, the program needs volunteers to continue making a difference in thousands of people’s lives – including Many Montgomery and her family.
Montgomery’s brother Chris Curry was shot and killed in 2017.
“He was an amazing person. His smile was infectious,” said Montgomery. “I don’t think I ever met a person that ever did not like Chris. He touched a lot of people in a lot of different ways. It was amazing.”
Curry was an organ donor whose liver saved the life of someone else. The night he died, his family visited the Indiana Donor Network and the staff gifted them with a comfort shawl.
“It was awesome, they were beautiful,” explained Montgomery. “They were like the colors that just matched all of us, so there was one for all of our personalities.”
She took her shawl home, sat it on her bed and kept it there. Montgomery said the shawl was like a hug from the volunteer that made it, and something that comforted her in times of grief, sadness and just the pure loss of missing her brother. She mentioned many people thought the two of them were twins because of how close they were.
But Curry was also close with Montgomery’s 4-year-old son, who called his uncle Chris – his hero.
“He didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk to Uncle Chris anymore,” she said. “He didn’t understand why he couldn’t call Heaven because he was used to talking to him every day.”
Montgomery used the pink and purple shawl as a way to explain Curry’s death to her son.
“I always told him whenever you’re feeling sad or scared, you just give that shawl a hug and Uncle Chris will hug you back,” she explained. “So, the shawl has meant a lot especially to him because he was only 4-years-old at the time and just being able to understand that.”
Bonnie Morin lost her own son in 2009. Scott Morin was also an organ donor.
“My son was a beautiful young man, he was 24,” said Morin. “He was just a nice kid, loved animals, loved children.”
His lung allowed another man to see his daughter get married and his grandchildren be born.
After Scott died, Morin wanted to find a place to volunteer–and she chose to volunteer for the Threads of Compassion program.
“I didn’t even know how to crochet until about six years ago,” Morin explained. “I learned so I could start making them. I think they’re a wonderful thing because there’s nothing more than getting a hug and getting something to put around you.”
That was six years ago and today, Morin still makes the shawls to gift to donor families.
“When I make these, there’s love in every stitch and I feel that everybody that makes them feels the same way - that they’re putting love in it,” she said. “So, it doesn’t matter if it’s not the most perfect stitching, it’s what you put into it from your heart.”
Sharron Clearwater is also a volunteer. She’s crocheted over 2,000 shawls herself.
“It’s the least I can do for those families, those heroes out there need to be out there honored in some way,” Clearwater said. “When it’s wrapped around your shoulders, that’s a hug from us and we can’t be there. But it’s letting you know that we really appreciate what your family had to go through and the donation that was given.”
The Threads of Compassion program needs more volunteers to help knit or crotchet shawls. You can make them from the comfort of your own home, send them in and the Indiana Donor Network will distribute them to families in need.
If you don’t know how to knit or crotchet, no worries! Indiana Donor Network holds workshops to teach how to make the shawls and even provide the yarn.
You can also donate materials to the program to help.
If you’d like more information on how you can help, click here.