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LifeSource Honors Wishes of 10,000th Tissue Donor Since 1999

Restorative Gifts from Upper Midwest Have Healed Nearly 1 million People

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – On November 4, 2021, LifeSource honored the wishes of our 10,000th tissue donor since our tissue program began in 1999.

“One tissue donor can heal more than 75 people,” said LifeSource Chief Operations Officer Julie Kemink, who founded the tissue donation program in 1999. “Heroes from the upper Midwest have helped more than a million people across the world.”

Examples of donated tissues include heart valves, bone, tendons, veins/arteries and skin. Donated tissues can repair, replace or reconstruct damage caused by tumors or trauma. Donated skin is used in skin grafts for burn victims, or women needing reconstructive surgery after mastectomies for breast cancer. Donated bone may help with reconstructive surgeries after traumatic injuries or bone cancers, and donated tendons can help individuals who have suffered sports-related injuries to move without pain again.

Laurie Mahoney, a LifeSource ambassador, had the rare experience of becoming the mother of a tissue donor and a tissue recipient herself. At age 34 Ryan, Laurie’s son, passed away. In 2019, two years later, she had a ski accident she required donated tissue for an ACL, MCL and meniscus. Laurie received her son Ryan’s tissue for the reconstruction. Watch a video about their story.

“I carried Ryan for 9 months. Now with this gift of a new knee, he is carrying me,” said Laurie Mahoney, donor mom and tissue recipient. “Not only did Ryan’s gifts heal my knee, but he also healed over 150 others. Knowing this helps heal my broken heart. Ryan lives on through others.”

Laurie Mahoney and her son, Ryan.
Laurie Mahoney and her son, Ryan, at a wedding prior to his passing.

Only about half (58%) of people in the upper Midwest who visit the DMV each month to apply for or renew their driver’s license register as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

“Donation is only possible if people say ‘yes’,” Susan Gunderson, LifeSource CEO said. “It’s a simple way to help others. You can register at the DMV or online at”

On Wednesday, November 3 Julie Kemink and Susan Gunderson laid a wreath and held a moment of silence in the LifeSource Healing Garden for all 10,000 tissue donor heroes.

Julie Kemink and Susan Gunderson laying a wreath at the Memorial Wall in the LifeSource Healing Garden.


Download photos of the wreath laying ceremony and moment of silence.

Tissue Donation: Facts & Statistics

  • Only about half (58%) of people in the upper Midwest who visit the DMV each month to apply for or renew their driver’s license register as an organ, eye and tissue donor.
  • 1 person can heal more than 75 others through the gift of tissue.
  • Donated tissues are used in many common surgeries and medical procedures. In fact, nearly 2.5 million tissue transplants are performed each year.
  • Donated tissues are used to help:
    • Treat burns
    • Replace heart valves
    • Restore blood flow in the body
    • Reconstruct torn tendons
    • Repair cleft palates
    • Prevent the need for amputation
    • Rebuild joints
    • Complete mastectomy reconstruction
  • Registering is easy – check the box on your driver’s license application or register online at
  • Tissue Donation Myth & Fact: Tissue donors can still have an open casket funeral upon their passing. LifeSource works closely with Funeral Directors to ensure that donors are not visually changed after giving the gift of tissue. 
  • Video: What is tissue donation?
  • Blog post: What is tissue donation?

Tissue Program History 

  • 1989 – Since our inception, LifeSource recovers hearts for life saving valve transplants benefiting both children and adults.
  • 1999 – Our tissue program begins with a few per diem employees recovering tissue. LifeSource recovers tissues from 28 people who said “yes” to donation and to saving lives. 
  • 2002 – Full time Tissue Recovery Specialists join the LifeSource team to meet the demand for tissue recovery. 
  • 2004 – The American Red Cross ends their tissue recovery program, focusing on blood donation and disaster relief programs. LifeSource sees an increase in tissue donation cases with 86 recoveries that year. 
  • 2008 – LifeSource’s Donor Services Center opens. This streamlines referral review, verification of Donor Designation, and communication with Hospitals, Funeral Homes and Medical Examiners.  
  • 2015 – LifeSource moves its headquarters to Minneapolis, MN. With the new building’s surgical space, it is no longer necessary to use hospital operating rooms for tissue recovery.  
  • 2021 – In November, LifeSource reaches the incredible milestone of honoring the wishes of 10,000 tissue donors since our tissue donation program began.  

LifeSource is proud to be the predominant tissue recovery organization for Minnesota hospitals and hospitals across North and South Dakota.

About LifeSource

LifeSource is the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, serving more than seven million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. LifeSource promotes donation in our communities through the Donate Life brand. We are relentlessly pursuing a day when no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant. Learn more at