JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It is all about saving lives for Miss Mississippi 2019, Mary Margaret Hyer. She is spreading the word about the importance of organ and tissue donation.
Hyer met a donor family and a transplant recipient at the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency in Flowood.
Miss Mississippi is already putting in the miles. With a stop Wednesday at MORA, the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, she is promoting her Social Impact Initiative.
“This is my first appearance as Miss Mississippi with the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency," said Hyer. "I had many appearances with them as a local titleholder but I’m really glad to be back wearing the big crown right now.”
Hyer says she knows first hand the importance of a donor. Her mother became a kidney donor for her grandmother.
“That just kind of lit a fire in my soul once I realized how few organs are available for people who need that transplant," said Hyer. "So ever since 2010 when that happened, I’ve been passionate about organ and tissue donation.”
Miss Mississippi is hearing from donor families like David and Sheila Wilbanks. They are the parents of Walker Wilbanks, a Jackson Prep student who became a donor in 2014.
“We have met and have contact with the kidney and pancreas recipient," said David Wilbanks. "She lives in Alabama.”
“It just shines a light on the whole, you know process of the recipients who need the organs, the donors," said Sheila Wilbanks. "It just makes us happy to bring it back out to light.”
Eryn Whitaker is a tissue recipient. She says most people don’t know how important it is until they or someone they love needs a donor.
“My right femur had a soft spot in it so that made it very, very likely to just, as a kid, you know you’re very active, so if I just fall the wrong way it could have just snapped and just broke," she explained.
MORA has unveiled the new Garden of Hope. Hyer and MORA supporters hope to spread the word about the need for tissue and organ donors.
Right now more than 1,300 Mississippians are in need of a lifesaving transplant. More than 113,000 in the nation. According to MORA a new person is added to the national waiting list every 10 minutes. Twenty people die each day waiting for a transplant that never comes.
The Wilbanks family says at least five people had life saving transplants because their son was a donor. One of them, who received his heart, was 13 years old at the time.