(WAND) - April 30, is Organ Donor Remembrance Day. It's a day to celebrate families who agreed to donate organs through-out the year, but COVID-19 restrictions put a hold on that celebration.
The Gift of Hope is an organization that makes organ donation and transplants happen across the state of Illinois. President and CEO, Kevin Cmunt, says the organization wants to remind people about the importance of organ donations, while also giving back to healthcare workers at the same time.
"There's 110,000 people in the United States that are on the wait list for a life saving organ," Cmunt says. "In Illinois, there are about 4,000 people waiting for an organ transplant."
Because of the pandemic, Cmunt says organ donation numbers are down, nationwide, 20 percent.
"Donations and signing up on the registry is more important today, than it's ever been," Cmunt says. "Our job is to meet families on the worst day of their lives, when something tragic has happened to their loved one. We talk to them about changing the end of that story to hope and renewal, hopefully getting them to agree to donation."
Currently, Gift of Hope staff are unable to be in the ICU to speak with families about potential organ donations because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"It has made us anxious. We want to help people," Cmunt says. "It's in our DNA. It's what we do. It's kind of the food that gets us going, is helping people and helping our caregivers."
Cmunt says the organization wanted to lift people's spirits with something sweet, and he says no one deserves a sweet act of appreciation more than those working on the front lines.
"As you can imagine, it's a tough day when you're gowned up and taking care of really sick people," Cmunt says. "We have a relationship with our hospitals. We do work with them all the time and in these times, we're not seeing them nearly as often as we would."
That's why the Gift of Hope has launched "Cookies for Caregivers" to thank brave healthcare providers.
"We are doing individually wrapped cookies from local bakeries and just delivering those," Cmunt says. "I think it's just the fact that they know there's a bunch of people thinking about them."
More than $4,000 in donations have resulted in cookies being delivered to 25 hospitals across the state.