LifeLink honors Cannon for supporting organ, tissue donation

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Longtime funeral director Greg Cannon says informing people about the benefits of organ and tissue donation is like “throwing a stone in a pond.”

Cannon Cleveland Funeral Directors co-owner Greg Cannon (left) was recently congratulated by Cassie Borderieux from LifeLink of Georgia for his work in support of organ donation. Cannon’s name will appear on a flower vial in a Donate Life float at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Photo by Mickie Jackson

“Once it hits the water, it becomes a rippling effect,” says Cannon, co-owner and chief executive officer of Cannon Cleveland Funeral Directors in McDonough. “That’s what our hope is, that we’re that stone that’s tossed in the water to create that rippling effect of educating and enlightening people about the opportunities of donation.”

Cannon’s efforts recently earned him recognition from LifeLink of Georgia, the state’s organ-procurement organization (OPO). His name will appear, along with those of other organ-donation supporters and recipients, on a flower vial in a Donate Life float at the upcoming Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The float will also feature transplant recipients, living donors, and deceased donors whose images will be included in “Floragraph” portraits as part of the float’s design.

Cannon has worked in the funeral-service industry since 1978 and has spent the last 16 years as a funeral home co-owner. He says organ and tissue donation helps bring something positive during a time of sadness.

“Donation sheds a whole new light on a phrase that is so commonly used after a death has occurred, and that is that the life of that individual continues to live as long as they live within us,” he says. “This takes that a step farther, because that life continues to live because of tissue and organ donation. I think it adds a whole different meaning to those words.”

Cannon’s support of organ and tissue donation isn’t merely professional, but personal as well. He notes that his brother is now able to hear in his left ear thanks to a bone graft from a donor.

Cannon says he relishes the opportunity to educate the public on how donation can help those who need it while, at the same time, honoring the wishes of those who have passed on.

LifeLink of Georgia recently congratulated Cannon-Cleveland Funeral Directors in McDonough for its efforts supporting organ and tissue donation. Those celebrating the occasion included (left to right): Funeral Service Apprentice, Craig Burnett; LifeLink¹s Coroner/Funeral Home/Medical Examiner Liaison, Cassie Borderieux; and Cannon-Cleveland Co-owner and CEO, Greg Cannon. Photo by Mickie Jackson

“When we have the privilege of serving a donor family, when we listen to those people talk, their focus of death changes to that of life, because we hear things like, ‘That’s what he would have wanted us to do. He was so full of life, and he would want to benefit someone else in some way,’” says Cannon. “So we’ve gone from talking about the fact that this person has died, to the fact that they’ve lived and that they continue to live because of their gift. It’s a remarkable experience for us. What we do day in and day out is already trying enough. So anything that adds a bit of hope, a ray of sunshine, makes a difference for us.”

Cannon says while dealing with the death of a loved one is something no one wants to face, steps can be taken to make the organ-donation process more bearable. One crucial step, he says, is to plan ahead as much as possible.

“More today than ever before, people realize the need and also the benefits of preplanning their funerals,” says Cannon. “We’re able to provide them with information from LifeLink of Georgia, giving them the opportunity to make that decision as well. The more that is in place before the death occurs as a guideline for the family … death is never easy, but it becomes a lot simpler.”

Approximately 5,000 people are currently on Georgia’s transplant waiting list, says Cassie Borderieux, LifeLink’s liaison for coroners, funeral homes and medical examiners in the state. She commends Cannon for his work in promoting organ and tissue donation.

“We really chose to present this opportunity to Greg and to the funeral home because of his support for donation,” says Borderieux. “Greg actually stepped out on his own and purchased a ‘Donate Life’ flag to fly here at the funeral home on his flagpole when he has a donor family here, or a donor here at the funeral home that he’s doing services for. He’s really just kind of made it his own, and really stepped out to do something to honor donation within this community.”

LifeLink, with 48 offices across the country, works with families to facilitate organ and tissue donation for those who need it. Borderieux says the organization’s “biggest hurdle” is getting people to understand the need for more organ and tissue donors.

“Donation is a gift,” she says. “It’s a gift of life. It’s a gift of a better life for a lot of people, and it’s a way for someone who’s passed on to have a legacy. It’s a way for someone who’s passed on to continue to live on, and it’s a way for these families who have lost their loved ones to have a positive note come from a tragic situation.”

Borderieux says the support of Cannon and others like him enables those whose lives have been touched by donation to educate others about it.

“It really opens a lot of doors by making it public, making it where people will want to ask questions,” says Borderieux. “And then, Greg also becomes a support system on the donation side for that family, he becomes an educator, he becomes a supporter.”

LifeLink reports that while an average of 30,000 transplants are performed each year across the country, some people who are in need of a donation die before a donor can be found. Borderieux says Cannon’s work in supporting donation in Georgia shows where his heart is, and serves as an as an example to others.

“Those organs and those tissues are primarily, before they’re offered out to any other state or wherever, they really try to place them in Georgia,” she says. “So being a part of that, being a part of donation in this state, you’re directly helping the people that live here. One organ donor can save eight people’s lives. One tissue donor can change 50 people’s lives. Never underestimate the difference that one person can make, but we all have to work our hardest, -- being a part of the OPO, being a part of the funeral homes, being coroners in the community -- to really take ownership of educating people so that they understand the need. And when they are presented with an opportunity for donation, they understand what that means and they can make that decision.”

Cannon Cleveland will host a funeral service expo in the coming months to highlight the services available at the funeral home. Cannon says LifeLink will be among the participants in that event, to spread the word about the need for organ donation.

For more information how to become an organ or tissue donor, visit For more on LifeLink of Georgia, visit www.lifelink