On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered at the Dena'ina Center for the Donor Family Remembrance event put on by Life Alaska Donor Services and many had stories just like Terri Teas.
Last October, Teas needed a kidney transplant and her son would have been a donor, however due to complications, she had to turn elsewhere. Teas asked a co-worker if she knew any potential donors.
Her co-worker, Judie Wolfe, not only knew a donor, she was the donor.
"I had no idea that Judie had gone ahead and gone through all the testing and made arrangements with Seattle," Teas said.
More than 6,000 people die each year waiting for a donor nationwide and 117,000 people are currently waiting for an organ, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Life Alaska says Alaska has the most registered organ donors per capita in the country in 2012.
Janet Cornelius, with Life Alaska, says while some donor families choose not to meet the recipient, others say it's a comforting experience.
"To be in a room with people that have something similar in common with them, it's an event where people feel at peace and comfort to be able to share those stories," Cornelius said.
The keynote speaker of the event, Dr. Michael Hagan, shared his own experience with receiving a new liver.
Dr. Hagan has a deep understanding of what many families have gone through, including playing the waiting game.
"Waiting was absolutely the hardest part," Hagan said.
There were also seven quilts on display that commemorate the memory of those who have given organs or tissue to others and Life Alaska said they’re almost ready to create an eighth quilt.
Wolfe, who gave one of her kidneys to her friend just a few months shy of her 70th birthday, says she did it because life is all about leading by example.
"I think that in order to be really respected as an elder and someone who is a sage, you have to do things that are sage," Wolfe said.Teas told Wolfe, “I know you don't think you're a hero, but I'm here to tell you ‘I'm here because of you.’"
Contact Samantha Angaiak