Garden of 'thanksgiving and remembrance' opened in Salthill

Martina and Denis Goggin with Mary Kennedy Ambassador for Organ Donor Awareness at the opening of the Circle of Life National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden in Quincentennial Park, Salthill on Tuesday. 
Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Martina and Denis Goggin with Mary Kennedy Ambassador for Organ Donor Awareness at the opening of the Circle of Life National Organ Donor Commemorative Garden in Quincentennial Park, Salthill on Tuesday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

A national commemorative garden, which highlights the importance of organ donation and is the first of its kind in Ireland, will be a place of thanksgiving and remembrance, according to the couple who set up the project.

The official opening of the Circle of Life garden, at the Quincentennial Park in Salthill on Tuesday, marked the realisation of an ambitious five year initiative by Spiddal husband and wife Denis and Martina Goggin.

Two years after they tragically lost their only child Eamonn in a car crash in 2006 - in keeping with his wishes his organs were donated - they formed a charity.

Strange Boat Donor Foundation’s aim is to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation, and they decided to set up a national commemorative garden “to remember and give thanks for the lives and generosity of spirit of all organ donors”.

The €150,000 voluntarily funded project was developed in partnership with the Galway City Council which provided the seafront location. Money was raised through donations, fundraising events and sponsorship.

Martina Goggin says the garden, which includes many innovative and interesting stone features, sculptures and inscriptions, was designed to be “an inclusive and welcoming place of beauty, inspiration, healing and hope.”

It will not only highlight the importance of organ donation but will also acknowledge and celebrate the lives of organ donors.

Fundraising was a big issue because no public funding was available for the project. “We were also doing it at a time that was least conducive - during the downturn in the economy. However, we got a lot of support from individuals and groups. The Galway Chicago Sister Cities Committee, of which Galway man Billy Lawless is vice chairperson, said it was a wonderful project and gave us $25,000 dollars. Companies, such as Roadstone, were very, very supportive.”

The title of the garden, Circle of Life, comes from the five two metre tall stones surrounding the garden’s centre, each of which features a carving and inscription reflecting the different stages of man’s journey through life.

Another of the garden’s design features is a unique heritage wall with stones from the environs of iconic heritage sites in the 32 counties.

“This represents donors and creates a sense of inclusion and welcome to people from throughout the country. The stones were procured with the support of the Office of Public Works.”

A shining light of spirituality

Representational stones from the five major continents - Africa, America, Australia, Asia and Europe - each sourced from a site associated with a different aspect of the advancement of humanity, are also included in the garden to reflect the universality of the cause of donation and extend a global message of welcome.

“We hope people coming to Galway will put it on their list of places to see. It is right on the prom which is a busy, busy, busy place. But once you are in the garden it is so peaceful. It gives people a sense of sanctuary.

“For me, it was a lifeline to be working on something so positive, to be able to dwell on something that would bring comfort to others and myself.”

Speaking at the official opening of the Circle of Life garden, Mr David Hickey, a transplant surgeon and the director of transplantation at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, stated that organ donation is a miracle of generosity and humanity at a time of incredible stress and sadness.

“It is a shining light of spirituality in an Ireland that is becoming increasingly materialistic and spiritually bankrupt. The important and powerful message of generosity and thanksgiving which this garden will impart will contribute significantly to the promotion of organ donation and transplantation into the future.”

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