BURLINGTON — The Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir led Donnie McClurkin's “All We Ask” during the Honor Walk for Dalton R. Criss at the University of Vermont Medical Center Thursday morning.
As hospital staffers wheeled the 18-year-old recent Peru High School grad and standout athlete to the operating room for organ recovery, his father, Dr. Dexter Criss, professor of chemistry at the college and choir artistic director, and his sisters, Danielle Criss and Lakita Washington, were beside him.
The halls were lined by the Plattsburgh area and Burlington communities that know the Morrisonville family as well as Medical Center staffers.
Dalton died Tuesday as a result of injuries sustained during a Route 3 crash west of Plattsburgh on Monday night.
His mother, Barbara S. Criss, who was a passenger in the 2007 Jeep, remains in stable-critical condition in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit.
GIFT OF LIFE
UVM Medical Center averages 12 organ donors annually.
Dalton is the 13th donor of 2019.
Last year in the United States, 10,721 people provided one or more organs for transplantation as deceased organ donors, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing website.
“The Criss family must know every single person ever,” Jennifer De Maroney, organ donation coordinator at the center, said.
“I think they changed UVM Medical Center. I think they changed this Honor Walk because holy cow, it was incredible.”
Dalton was on organ support through the ventilator as he was transported to the operating room.
The Medical Center staff lined the halls.
His family lined the halls.
His friends lined the halls.
“Basically, the idea is that walk to the OR that the family is going to make needs to be well supported,” De Maroney said.
“We need to make some way to be there there for the family and also to say thank-you for this amazing and self-less gift that is being given.
“Dalton and the Criss family need to know how just how much they are appreciated.”
FIRST WITH A CHOIR
Each Honor Walk is different because the center tries to make each one what is best for each family.
“We had a choir today (Thursday),” De Maroney said.
“They all came. We went down the hall, they followed us and they were singing. You could hear them coming.”
When Dalton was still in ICU, the choir was warming up with Amazing Grace.
“It was too, too loud, but we could just hear this beautiful music coming as they sang Amazing Grace,” she said.
“During the walk, just hearing them come — it was so inspiring to hear those voices, just beautifully blended and accompanying this music that is so important to the Criss family and so important to Dalton. To hear that send-off be personalized by people that cared for him.”
She said she couldn't imagine what it was like for her colleagues who came to Thursday's Honor Walk for Dalton to support his family.
“And I didn't know I was going to hear that music and see that,” De Maroney.
“It must have been so incredibly moving to just be part of something like that.”
The walk began at 10:15 a.m.
At the end of the Honor Walk, when Dalton and family arrived at the O.R. for his heart to be donated, the choir and community sang 'Sign Me Up words and music by Kevin Yancy & Jerome Metcalfe,” according to Andrea Ogle, director of the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir.
“This was the last song Dalton played his heart and soul on the drums at his church, Faith Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Glens Falls the Sunday before the tragic accident,” Ogle said via email.
"A GOOD PERSON'
All good-byes were said at the OR doors.
“The choir continued that music, so as we walked back to the ICU,” De Maroney said.
“The staff was still there. The family is still there. The friends are still there. The choir is still singing, and there's still this beautiful music. So, this one was extra special. I jokingly said to them, 'Well, now you're going to need to come to all these Honor Walks.'”
The Celebration of Dalton's Life,” a memorial, will be held next Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Peru High School gymnasium.
Maroney finds her job inspiring.
“A family's worst moment, they are the most generous, loving people,” she said.
“Donation in itself is just an act of love, and it's an act of goodness. For people like Dalton, it's a natural. Every story that I heard about him, he was just a good kid. This was a good person. And so, of course, he's an organ donor. You know, of course.”
Email Robin Caudell:
GO FUND ME
To support the Criss Family