A flag recognizing the need and calling for people to donate life-giving organs was hoisted Friday over Kadlec Regional Medical Center while the mother of 16-year-old Sierra Murray tried to hold back tears.
"It means a lot to us. I know that she's proud," said Roxanne Murray of Richland.
Her daughter Sierra died Oct. 28 after being struck that night by a motorist while crossing the street near Richland High School.
Sierra had told her mother, who is a dialysis nurse, that she believed in organ donation, Roxanne Murray said at Friday's event marking April as Organ Donation Month.
Sierra's memory and gift of organs was a central message during the event sponsored by the hospital for Life Center Northwest, one of 58 federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organizations.
"I have patients who are waiting for a transplant," Roxanne Murray said. "This is a great way to honor her."
"Sierra gave everything she had to anyone who needed it," said her mother, adding that her daughter had loved singing in the high school choir, but gave it up to become a mentor for youth. Sierra also was active at Temple Baptist Church in Richland and planned to attend college to pursue a career in childhood education.
Friday's event also had Oscar Sainz, 52, of Kennewick, sharing how a donated heart saved and changed his life three years ago.
"Two granddaughters have been born since the transplant. More than likely I would not have had to chance to know them without getting a new heart," said Sainz, who has been a spokesman for organ donation since receiving the heart.
Sainz noted that recipients don't know who their donors are, but the positive effects to families of both are great.
"To anyone who is hesitant about becoming an organ donor, I say put yourself in my shoes," he said.
Roxanne Murray said it is still hard to go on without her daughter.
"We're taking it one day at a time. We always knew she would change the world. We just didn't know how," she said.
A memorial for Sierra is planned for Sunday -- which would have been Sierra's 17th birthday -- in Richland High's school's cafeteria.
The event starts at 2 p.m. and will include a potluck, cake and music. Organizers expect to release 50 purple balloons in Sierra's honor.
Attendees are encouraged to wear shirts, hoodies or buttons made in Sierra's memory.
For more information about Life Center Northwest, based in Bellevue, call 888-543-3287 or go to www.lcnw.org.